Things I learned In Ireland

I’m home. It’s taken me a week to feel like a human again, but I’m home.

Let me be clear: I did not think I’d survive this trip. I never think I’ll survive anything that’s outside my usual routine, so this trip was huge for me. I cleaned my car before I left in case I died. I also took my diary because I didn’t want to be remembered by my sad stories and bad jokes. I started my taxes but didn’t finish them, because I can’t afford them. And that was the one thing I felt comfortable burdening my family with.

Self-employment taxes aside, it was a real treat to come home alive.

As anticipated, my journey to the airport was a shit show. I couldn’t find the bus, and when I did, I had to find coins on the ground to pay for it. The bus driver was nice enough to help me. I am, it would seem, officially out of money.

This didn’t stop me from buying a grilled cheese, coffee and two scones at the airport. I am grateful for my credit card, though I fear it will be my undoing.

While at the airport, I reflected on my trip and found myself surprisingly sad to leave. Certainly, I missed my kitties, my roommates and my weekday sobriety. But I had an amazing time. And I’ve become addicted to the record-breaking likes on my Instagram photos.

I did not write every day as promised. But I did take notes of things I learned. Thus, I give you a rambling list of Things I Learned In Ireland:

Never ask for a “ride.” Ask for a “lift.” Apparently, asking for a ride is like asking for sex. Lesson learned.

Irish people are incredibly accommodating. When I met my friend Tony’s mom, she offered me some tea. I turned it down to be polite, and somehow ended up with tea, a plate of scones, cornbread and two shots of Poitín (Irish moonshine). The next day, Tony’s sister drove me — after having just met me! — to Derry because she is amazing, and –

Easter Monday is a thing. And everything shuts down, buses included.

Guinness really is better in Ireland. Something about pasteurization, idk. But you better believe I’m gonna brag about it every time you see me. “Ummm when I was in Ireland…”

In Ireland (see? It’s happening already) you don’t order drinks for yourself, you order drinks in rounds. This was a particularly hard rule for me to follow. I hate when people buy me drinks, especially men. I like to assert my dominance, and I don’t want anyone to think I owe them a ride. But I swallowed my pride for the sake of tradition. I don’t expect it to happen again.

Converters turn hairdryers into flame throwers.

Moms are amazing. I knew this already, as I love my mom to pieces. But seeing my friend Megan in mom-mode was something I’ll never forget. Kids are insane. They ride waves of manic elation and utter despair all day, every day. One moment, they’re laughing like crazy at “rock, paper, scissors, poop!” The next, they’re sobbing because they didn’t want sausage for lunch. At one point, Owen (Megan and Tony’s youngest boy) turned to me and said, “Jojo, I like you,” and I swear to God my heart fell out of my body. How anyone rides these waves is beyond me. But Megan does it without even batting an eye. She is unreal. I’ve always said that she hit the jackpot with those kids. But after this trip, I think the kids hit the jackpot with her.

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Baby sheep look like cats from afar.

 

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I like traveling alone. I was nervous to do this, but I’m so glad I did. I met a lot of great people and I never once felt lonely. I saw what I wanted to see, ate where I wanted to eat, slept when I wanted to sleep. I spent a lot of time sitting at bars, trying new beers, listening to music and eavesdropping on locals. It never felt weird. The only time I felt unsafe was my last day in Dublin, when some strange man approached me to tell me he liked my style (first red flag), asked if I was alone (second red flag) and kept following me after I brushed him off (all the fucking flags).

I like eating alone. I’m a monster when I eat, so it’s better this way. But I really enjoyed my fancy solo dinners.

I like being alone. Which bodes well for me, as I will be dying alone.

People hate Americans. Or maybe just me. Or maybe just Trump. Either way, next time I travel internationally, I’m wearing a Democrat lapel pin. Or Friend of The Pod shirt. Trump is the laughing stock of the world. We are the laughing stock of the world. And we should be ashamed. I know I am.

I don’t have a top lip when I smile.

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Hostels aren’t so bad. I did not – and will not – publish a sequel to Hostel –Night 1, as the details of what followed are unfit to print. I will say, though, that I met a lot of cool people from all over the world. I made a friend from Holland, an enemy from Russia, a pub advisor from Dublin, and a whiskey tasting/donut eating companion from D.C. I met a German guy who offered me a ride (no, a lift! Dammit a LIFT!) to Dublin, and a welder from I forget but somewhere in England. The three handsome Lebanese men (who were delighted to hear themselves described as such) and my two girl roommates – Lauren and Shannon – were among the highlights of my trip. Like a Week 6 Bachelor contestant, I didn’t come to make friends, but I left with some nonetheless.

 

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Miriam, a new friend from Holland.

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Sweaty Galway hostel friends in Dublin.

 

Scones are the shit. I could (and did) live on scones.

People think American girls are bitchy and elitist. An Irish girl told me I was “so normal for an American.” When I asked what she meant, she said a lot of people think we’re like the girls from The Hills and Laguna Beach. I laughed and assured her that I wasn’t. But deep down, I was flattered. Part of me has always wanted to be a beautiful, snooty socialite. So this was quite pleasing to hear.

Craic (pronounced “crack”) is everywhere. Good gossip is good craic. Good fun is good craic. Good sex is . . . a craic ride? Who knows. But if you want to know where the party is, you ask, “Where’s the craic?” This does not translate in America for obvious reasons. Which is why I often worry for the reputation of our dear Tony Kelly.

My hands look dead in photographs. 

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From the Game of Thrones tour pamphlet: Coldhands drinks at local pub.

To tell 24-hour time, you just subtract 2 from the second number. I am impressive, I know.

All in all, it was a life changing experience. Something I never thought I would or could do. And I can’t wait to do it again in 40 years when I’ve recovered.

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Hostel – Night 1

I survived my first night in a hostel. I did not sleep well, but I did sleep.

My prep began hours in advance. I tapered my dairy intake, and I treated myself to two glasses of wine at dinner to assist my descent into unconsciousness. I claimed the top bunk, thinking it’d have better, cleaner air flow. This was my first mistake.

My second mistake was putting on my PJs at 8:30. My roommates, who turned out to be quite lovely, invited me out with them. I, however, being the curmudgeon I am, wanted to make it clear that under no circumstances was I there to socialize. So, on went the Kanye tankity top, off came the bra, and up I climbed to my sleeping perch.

Not 5 minutes later, more roommates arrived. Three men. Handsome men. From Lebanon.

The girls left to go out and I hung around and talked with the guys. We got along really well, which surprised me. I hardly ever enjoy talking to strangers.

They asked why I was in bed already. I told them I was tired. They told me I was lame. I told them this was not news.

“Why don’t you want to go out?” They’d ask.

“Because I don’t want to,” I’d respond.

And so on and so forth.

Eventually, they convinced me. I buttoned my pants (I’d undone them at dinner), threw on a hoodie and joined them for some beers.

Which brings us back to my first mistake. As you may recall, I’m strictly an aisle kinda girl. This is because I like to have easy access to the bathroom. The top bunk does not allow this. And at 4 am, full of Guinness, I had to pee.

The panic began when I couldn’t find my socks. I normally sleep with them on or nearby, just in case I need to make an emergency toe touchdown. But they were nowhere to be found. I couldn’t imagine traipsing across the hostel floor barefoot. So, I sat there for 30 minutes weighing the pros and cons of a foot infection vs. a bladder infection.

How many times have they cleaned this carpet? Is there a 5-second rule for foot fungi? Is there an OTC medication for UTIs? Or would I have to go to the hospital? And if so, would my health insurance work in Galway?

I decided to brave the floor. I saw my Keds not too far from my bed, so I figured I could jump and land nearby. The trick would be landing softly enough as to not shake the floor and wake my bunk mate.

In the end, I nailed it. If my bunk mate were awake, he’d have seen a flash of a gray sweatsuit leaping from the heavens. It was some of my best work.

Night 2 was #lit. More to come. Now, I’m in Dublin, blogging from my phone at a pub some dude on the bus told me to check out.

Galway

I have arrived in Galway. I did not write every day. I’m working on a post about “things I’ve learned in Ireland,” which is basically a rambling list of things that happened over the past few days. In the meantime, here’s a status update.

I arrived in Galway about an hour ago. I took a bus from Belfast to Dublin, and a bus from Dublin to here. Considering I haven’t yet figured out Chicago’s transit system, it’s a miracle I’m not in Scotland.

The bus dropped me right near my hostel. I’m staying in a hostel. I don’t know what I was thinking staying in a hostel. When I got to my room, I found my roommates sleeping. I unpacked as best and as quietly as I could. But it was dark. And I was wearing a windbreaker. And I had to figure out how to lock up my belongings without swishing and swooshing too much.

I got out as fast as I could as to enjoy what little daylight I have left. I wandered aimlessly for about 30 minutes. Fun fact: there are no street signs here.

I landed at a pub that had space at the bar. As I walked to an open seat, a woman looked me up and down, turned to her husband and said, “American.” I blame the windbreaker. And the sneakers.

I shot the woman a scowl and ordered a pint of Guinness. The bartender promptly spilled it on me. But I’m wearing a windbreaker. So the entire pint ran right off my body and on to the floor. Because I’m fucking American 🤘🏻

Which brings us to present. I’m still at the bar, blogging from my phone and listening to a traditional Irish band. It’s good craic.

Ireland – Day 0.5

I do not travel well.

It is known.

I once traveled with a pregnant woman and felt like I’d found my tribe. We both needed bi-hourly bathroom breaks, snack breaks, nausea breaks and nap time breaks.

I get sick on trains, swing sets and sometimes while driving my own car. When I first moved to Chicago, my friends took me on a boat with a cool couple I very much wanted to impress. Within the hour, I was puking off the side of their boat.

But motion sickness isn’t my only travel problem. I’m an anxious wreck before and during trips. What if I get sick and miss the trip? What if I get sick ON the trip? And, of course, one of my greatest hits, What if I just straight up die on the trip? 

It’s thoughts like these that, for the past week, have had me waking up in the middle of the night to jot down notes like, “Look up 911 in Irish.”

You see, today begins my 10 day adventure in Ireland. My first time out of the country since I was 12. My first time traveling alone and my first time doing anything remotely adventurous.

I still can’t believe I booked this trip.

My goal is to write every day. I’ve been slacking in this department, so I hope this will be a real Eat, Pray, Love situation for me.

The first leg of my journey has been a long one. It began on the Blue Line in an elevator that smelled like pee, standing next to a woman who told me to watch out for pee. I felt like puking – not from the pee, but from nerves – so I put in my headphones and bumped my go-to de-stress music: Enya.

When I got to the airport, I met a man from Kentucky. He saw my Maker’s Mark shirt and struck up a convo. We danced around the topic of single-hood, feeling each other out with phrases like, “nothing tying me down,” and “no commitments,” etc. We talked about our seat assignments, at which point I called myself “strictly an aisle kinda girl.” I regret this very much.

When we parted ways, we didn’t shake hands. For this I was glad. My Eucerin cream was safely stowed in my checked luggage, and my hands were starting to chicken foot.

The flight was fairly uneventful. I sat next to a girl who was also traveling alone. We talked for a bit before I knocked myself out with a small bottle of champagne and two Dramamine.

“Don’t worry if I start to pale,” I said, popping in my ear plugs. “I’m nervous.”

She nodded. I wondered why I kept saying weird shit to strangers.

7.5 hours later, I landed in Dublin. I’m still at the airport, blogging over eggs, toast and coffee, while waiting for the bus to take me to Moville.

I hope I get an aisle seat.

 

You Win, Bravo

I watch too much Bravo. It wasn’t always this way. When I lived alone, I couldn’t afford cable, so I stuck to Netflix, Amazon Prime and Phantom of the Opera. But now that I have Bravo, I find myself completely invested in the lies and lives of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

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My dad, the reluctant Netflix provider.

I hate myself for it, really. There are so many good shows out there — smart shows I tell myself I *should* be watching, books I *should* be reading, or comedians I *should* be studying. But when I come home from a long day of dog walking and find myself hangry beyond the point of return, all I want is a tall glass of wine and 30 minutes of women screaming their truths.

I’m a total mess when I watch the show. The kind of person you absolutely hate to watch TV with. The kind of person who criticizes everything about the show, self-righteously huffs and puffs at the hypocrisy of it all, and then calls you up at 8:00 next Tuesday to do it all over again.

I tell myself it’s educational. That I watch this so I know how to be a good friend. So I know how to conduct myself – and how NOT to conduct myself – in public. A few weeks ago, I turned to my roommate and said, “You know, if there’s one thing this show has taught me, it’s to be really careful with my words. Like, never say anything you wouldn’t want repeated.”

And then I went out and called someone a “lil bitch ass.”

“Maybe if I read more,” I tell myself, “I’ll lose interest in this smut and grow into the pretentiously well-read person I’ve always wanted to be.”

So, I started reading Anna Karenina. I think it’s a cool name, and I’d like to keep a copy by my bed to intimidate people.

“My God! A Tolstoy fan! How impressive and also arousing!” my male suitors will say.

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My current bedside set-up. It’s neither impressive nor arousing. 

Apparently, Anna Karenina (did you hear? I’m reading it) is one of the greatest books ever written. Which is why I want to like it – I really, really do. But alas, Bravo, has ruined me. Where I’d hoped to lose myself in the intrigue of times gone by, I am instead judgy as shit. Anna Karenina, to me, is a no more than an unabridged season of Housewives:

“Will new-girl Kitty ever find her voice? Can Anna – former fan-favorite and Housewife veteran – survive her most dramatic season yet? Will Vronsky stop being a lil bitch ass and move the f on? Find out this season on Anna Karenina.”

See? I’m ruined.

Carpool Karaoke

I don’t know what kind of person I am. I don’t think I’m a morning person, but I’m definitely not a night person. I like to be in bed by 10:30 but have been known to sleep well past noon. Also, I do not function without coffee. Like, at all.

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Not quite morning people. Not quite night people.

I paint you this picture to illustrate my mindset the morning of Saturday, December 23. I had an early flight home for Christmas, so rather than take the train (which typically involves a few wrong trains before taking the right one), I decide to hail a Lyft.

At approximately 5:45 a.m., my driver pulls up, and, within seconds, I know I’m in trouble. He’s the chipper sort, and I can smell the sickly sweet remnants of Red Bull on his breath.

I sit in the front seat, not as to engage, but as to avoid vomiting all over his backseat. “I get carsick,” I tell him, setting the bar as low as humanly possible.

He asks what I do, where I’m going.

I tell him I’m a dog walker, and that I’m going home to Kentucky.

He asks if I’d like to start driving for Lyft. I say no, I get car sick. That I don’t like driving. And I don’t like driving with other people in the car. So, all around, a terrible fit.

He tells me it’s fun. That you get to talk to people – all kinds of people! – all night.

I cannot conjure a more perfect vision of hell, I think, so I nod and say, “Yeah, that must be interesting.”

He tells me I never asked him what he likes to do for fun.

I ask him what he likes to do for fun.

He says karaoke.

I ask him where he likes to do karaoke.

He says he’s never done it in public before.

I wonder how much longer I have until he abducts me.

He fiddles with some dials, and soon, his entire dash turns into a karaoke screen.

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The proof.

“This one’s my favorite,” he says, cuing up Shania Twain’s “Man I Feel Like A Woman.”

I laugh politely. He’s so happy. And I’m so tired.

He asks me to sing along. I oblige, barely – talking the words rather than singing them.

He notices.

“Come on!” he says. “You know it!”

I tell him I’m tone-deaf.

He tells me it doesn’t matter.

I give him my worst.

He loves it.

“Right there! See, I heard it! You DO have a good voice!” He’d say whenever I’d land in the general vicinity of the note at hand.

Soon, he drops out of the song all together. I’m singing solo. He’s backing me up with the chorus. Aside from a few “Oohs,” “Ahhs,” and “Let’s go girls,” I’m totally and utterly alone. I’m so very embarrassed. Which is odd for me, really. I love karaoke. But this feels different. It feels vulnerable.

I look around the car to see if there are any cameras. Surely there are. Surely this is some sort of prank. And, if so, surely I can refuse the use of my footage, right?

I decide the best way out is an honorable decrescendo — a slow descent into silence. I begin to soften my voice until it becomes no more than a whisper. I then sigh heartily, as if I’m pleased with our work, and I’m eager to end on a high note. I clap my hands on my thighs for a final touch – a nonverbal “Well! That was fun! I must be off now! Ta-ta!”

It doesn’t translate.

“You don’t like this one? We’ll find another.”

He finds Spice Girls. Then Christmas songs. Then Mariah Carey, which becomes the climax of our carpool concert.

Every time I stop and try to strike up a conversation, he sings at me. He looks at me, locks eyes, and sings right into my soul.

This continues for the entirety of our 35 minute trip. By the time I arrive at Midway, I’m hoarse, exhausted and car-sick from reading the lyrics on the screen. I’m a little annoyed, honestly, until I realize something: I’ve been strugging to come up with blog topics, and this guy just gave me a gem.

So, thank you, dear Lyft driver. I hope you get more willing passengers in the New Year.

 

 

Anything but write

I’ll do anything but write.

I’ll clean my room, brush the cats, reorganize my closets.

I’ll do anything but write. Because writing is terrifying.

Of course, I love to write. It’s why I moved to Chicago. But in doing so, I put something out into the universe that I can’t take back. I went after a fantasy of mine that’s never seen the light of day. Something that, until recently, lived as a picture-perfect daydream in the back of my mind. What’s going to happen when I drag it out? When I tear it from its safe place and say, “Here, World, is my most precious dream. Please discuss.”

That’s why, today, I’ll do anything but write. I’ll get a flu shot, I’ll buy some running shoes, I’ll stare at my cats — anything and everything to put off what’s most important.

My sketches need rewrites. My blog needs an update. But my face needs a fucking dermatologist. And that’s something I can tackle in a phone call.

 

Tonight!, I tell myself. Tonight, we write! But first, isn’t it Harry Potter weekend? And shouldn’t I watch something happy — just for a minute! — to get myself out of this crotchety headspace?

I turn on ABC Family and trick myself into forgetting how Harry gets Slughorn’s memory juice. Then, I genuinely forget who dies at the end of the series (everyone), and, 30 minutes later, find myself balls deep in a Harry Potter internet wormhole.

I did the same thing last month, only with Straight Outta Compton.

I’ll do anything but write, because being creative is uncomfortable. “What if I suck? I probably suck. And if I suck, what’s the point?”

I do my best to ride out these thoughts. I imagine what my old therapist would say. “Who cares if you suck? You’re taking classes to get better.”

She’s right. Of course she’s right. So, in an effort to quash my inner demons, I gave myself a goal: I’ll write for an hour, and then I’ll stop. I’ll blog about something (anything!) for 60 minutes, and then I’ll publish it without obsessively editing it for weeks.

So, my hour is up. Dog walking calls. Which means by the time you read this, I’ve already picked up some poop.