Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dublin Flea Market Yummy Baubles and Waffles

Just got back to my flat from visiting the Dublin Flea Market.  The scene in the market proves that the co-op is an excuse to bring all brands of hipster together on a monthly basis, although a quite great excuse if you ask me.  There were about thirty or forty stalls crammed into the Hall that usually holds the Dublin Food Co-op, which offers falafel, waffles and mulled wine for about the same price as a vintage skirt at the Flea.  
The Flea is one of those experiences that is exactly what you expect - knickknacks and cheap riffraff galore, in all a manner of colors and mostly too-small sizes (those fifties girls were masochistic most definitely).  I don’t usually fare so well at these types of shopping venues because I tend to come home with tons of cheap, well, crap.  But this time proved different - when I say the Flea is cheap, I mean dirt cheap.  I bought a fifties vintage skirt, a necklace, a poster and a sweater-shirt, none of which cost me upwards of five dollars.  Like all vintage shopping experiences, quality suffered a bit, but that’s the fun of it.  You’ve got to have your vintage shopping wits about you, or you’ll come home and realize you have bought a skirt that doesn’t have a zipper where one is supposed to be (oops).  
The rest of the Flea was your typical cluster**** of hipster goodness.  Read: Organic, sustainable, veggie-heavy food, ridiculous clothing choices and a steady stream of skinny, dirty boys playing their guitars on a makeshift stage.  
Although I recognize the shear self-indulgence of such a gathering, I can’t help but love it.  I like the veggie-heavy fare, I bought just enough useless items of clothing and goddamnit those boys are a-dorable.  
And there if just something ridiculously victorious about being able to say, “Yes, those are Mayan dolls on my skirt, and it was only three Euros”.  

Friday, October 30, 2009

Domestic Bliss - Read: Existential Crisis

I feel so peacefully domestic.  Almost uncomfortably so.  Surrounded by the stuff of a day well spent without traveling more than three blocks from home.

There are those days that I wake up and am a domestic goddess, or rather a domestic squirrel - darting here and there doing all those little household tasks we all put off for weeks.  This is all supremely out of character.  Emptied recycling, also emptied incredibly small bathroom wastebasket that is always more of a goal than an actual destination for various debris.

The most reliable symptom of this mood is the rearranging of the living space.  When I still lived at home, I would rearrange my room into bizarre layouts maybe three, four times a year.  Always bizarre, because there is only so much you can do with a tenxten room with one window.

And let's face it; when you are in the midst of the somehow simultaneously monotonous and terrifying days of high school, moving your twin to the exact center of the room can give you a new lease on life.

I always tend to exaggerate the horrifying experience that was high school to a stereotypical degree.  I actually had quite a good time, despite the inevitable heartbreak and embarrassment. I think I just don't want to admit that I still like moving furniture around for no good reason. It has nothing to do with feng shui - although my boy Guo Pu might disagree -  It makes me feel like I have something new to look forward to - a new spot.

And what is a new spot really but a new perspective on life? No - literally - you see things from new angles.  Seriously! You are seeing sides of things you've never seen before!

No, but for real - just keeps things fresh.  And it makes you question your daily routine.  If you have to plunk your butt down in a new corner of the room to watch those five episodes of Glee in a row, you might think twice and pick up a book.

My new spot is much more conducive to reading.  Without no effort, I read for close to three hours instead of using the internet - something I've found difficult to do once I discovered how to use Megavideo. 

This move I cultivated the perfect spot for me and my butt.  With two roommates, there seems to be a natural claiming of spots.  I put my computer on the seat.  Primal, maybe, but come on - who's going to sit on a computer?

That kind of thinking has lost me about four to five expensive pieces of electronics in the past two years. 

So, for now I'm camping out.  Window sill to my left, fireplace to my right.  Book on chest. 

Jesus, I even bought flowers!

It's me, God. Marga-- FUCK.  Who am I?!

Next stop: candles and a throw rug (vintage?)

Ch- ch- ch- ch- ch- ch- check it out: Dublin Flea Market

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Felice Brothers

This past Sunday, my friend Chris used a family connection to score a spot for himself +1 on the guest list of the Felice Brothers show in Dublin.  The venue was a club called Whelans that has no real philosophy in terms of booking bands as far as I can tell, seeing that the last time we went there we danced to an electro-pop DJ.  I had never heard of the band before Chris started insisting that these dudes were the next Dylan, and had been for months.  From my observation, it seems that the person or persons Chris deems as the "Next Dylan" seem to fluctuate rather frequently.  Therefore it seemed it meant something that he had been holding this conviction for a couple of months.

I started by listening just to their recently released album "Yonder is the Clock", and to be honest, I wasn't bowled over in excitement.  It was great music to be sure, but it didn't hit me in the aural sweet spot.

Their gig at Whelans this past Sunday is ranked in my top three favorite concerts I've ever been to in my life.  The community that the Felice Brothers managed to create in that venue within two hours was awesome.  The main singer (although most "brothers" had one song that they sang) Ian Felice is almost painfully serious about the lyrics he sings - this is a band meant to be seen live.

Maybe it was the spirit of Dublin that was permeating the air and making everyone giddy, but I for one couldn't keep the smile off my face.  I even stood in five-inch-heels for the whole concert and followed when Farley Felice (the washboard and fiddle player) pulled some people up on the stage.  This is from someone who pooped out half-way through Lollapalooza last year, and went home with a friend to take a nap and watch television.

There is something extremely adorable about the group that the Felice Brothers have created.  Although only two of them are actually brothers (there used to be three, but the drummer brother moved on to other projects), each band member has adopted the stage name of his own last name plus the surname Felice.  I just can't get over how adorable it was to watch a group of brothers getting silly and playing music together with such fierce energy and love.

In conclusion, I wish I could play the Harmonica.

P.S. Check out Farley Felice on the far left.  The night we saw them at Whelans he was wearing a New York Yankees fitted, a bandana and a white tee.  His favorite artist is Jay-Z, and he is the Felice Brothers resident rapper and hype man.  But most of the time he plays the fiddle and washboard.  Uh. Swoon much?

Egads, le cough.

Everyone I know is sick, and it makes me nervous.  Extremely nervous.  I am of the sort that will feel absolutely peachy, but as soon as someone in my general vicinity starts to feel sick, I start feeling my glands.  I also tend to "test-cough", i.e. cough to see if it feels like you're sick.

My roommate Erin has the kind of illness that, as she put it, "makes you feel like you are wading through water at all times".  So, basically debilitating H1N1.

We're all going to die.

In other news, I'm heading off this weekend to the beautiful country of Scotland.  It's just a short, (more expensive than I thought it would be) flight across the pond, but I am super psyched because everytime I visit my cousin, wherever she happens to be at the time, it tends to be a throw-down of epic proportions.  In other words, I am spending the morning of my arrival in Edinburgh, before departing for her University in St. Andrews, otherwise I won't get any sightseeing done whatsoever.

Unless you are like my cousin and I, who classify touring a city's great pubs and clubs in the same species as visiting the great monuments.

Okay, maybe not.  But it's damn good fun.

Also, some great dude once said that the only way to get to know a civilization is to live among them for a time, i.e. adopt their social habits.  Basically, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Blogging is great procrastination.  And with that, I away.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

This ain't history yet.

I could get away with saying that I am a well-traveled person.  Through the long-lasting generosity of my aunt, I have been able to travel through much of Europe, as well as visiting Australia, Mexico, and many destinations in the United States.  
This past weekend changed all that.  I spent two days in the Northern Ireland city of Belfast with a delegation of about a hundred students studying various places in Ireland.  Now I feel as if I haven’t experienced anything except this place.    
The first night we arrived in Belfast, the only organized activity consisted of a dinner at the hostel.  Needless to say, everyone had pretty much the same goal after the bland meal: find pub, buy pint.  
A large group of us went to the first place we saw; a bar across the street from the Belfast International Hostel, called the Royal.  As we walked in, we noticed a confederate flag flying alongside other flags, some of which we recognized and others we didn’t.  We decided that they probably didn’t know what it meant, or put it up for less nasty reasons than we would generally assume.  The American students had soon overrun the bar, but the publican seemed to be enjoying the influx of tourists on a slow night.  
Events of the night included:  
-Backstreet Boys being played back-to-back for about half an hour.  This was accompanied by the typical girl-bopping, and predictable old-man-ogling.  
-A very drunken fellow around the age of forty-five, repeated two things to me about fifteen times; that he was from Northern Ireland, and that his son was fighting in Afghanistan for the British.  And then he kissed my nose.  
-The Publican of the bar allowed not one, but four American boys to go behind the bar and pull their own pints of Guinness.  
-One very enthusiastic man showed us how he could put his leg behind his head and then stand up.  We clapped.  

When we pulled back into the Hostel after a day of hiking the Giant’s Causeway, our guides advised us to patron the pubs that would have people our own age, The Bot and The Eg adjacent to Queen’s University Belfast. We were told to stay clear of the Royal, as it was a bit of a dodgy establishment.  At first I thought our guides were just being too protective of a group of young people for which they were responsible, but then the stories began to pile in.  

That night, a smaller group of Americans went back to the Royal while the rest of us decided to check out the student bars.  A couple of pints in, one of the boys asked the Barman why they flew the confederate flag outside their bar, to which he made it clear, using racist, but yet matter-of-fact language, that this was a bar that favored white supremacy.  The kid looked confused, so the man elaborated, “Do you see any of them here?”

It wasn’t until the next day when I was being told this story, that I looked out the window of the bus as we passed the Royal and noticed the body of a doll hanging from the lamp post outside the front door, an obvious lynching reference.  

Now, all this was disturbing enough.  I felt ignorant and dirty thinking that I had given money to the establishment and not even noticed what was obviously going on around me.  But what made our experience in Belfast that weekend so disturbing wasn’t the fact that we mistakenly patroned the wrong bar, but my peers responses to the experience the morning after.  
This was the majority of the reponses:  
And the kickers: “But they were soooo nice to us!” or “Oh my god, it was so fun though.”

To which I responded, quite loudly: “Yeah, because you are white, dumbasses!”

Talk about a situation that reveals character and morals.  I had one guy say to me that he was glad that he went because the bartender was really nice to him, they had a great conversation, and that “they” are people too.  

Seriously?! This is the reaction we are having to have mistakenly walked into a white-supremicist bar, that also happened to hold the meetings of the Ulster Defence League in its uptairs room?

Yes, most of us have never encountered such blatant racism in our lives, but a scary amount of my peers were talking about the situation as if it was funny, or something they had seen in an exhibit at the Natural History Museum, not a real life experience that should be quite spiritually disturbing.  

Perhaps it sank in a bit more as the day went on, during which we toured the Falls and Shankill areas of Belfast, the Catholic and Protestant communities respectively, which are seperated by a concrete and steel-enforced wall.  Our tour guide described the wall as similar to the Berlin Wall, except for that fact that it isn’t coming down any time soon.  

We toured the area of Shankill to take a look at the hundreds of murals painted by the Loyalists. Their history and significance is too intricate to get into at the moment, but let it be said that one mural we saw commemorated the life of a young Loyalist Militia Commander who had been murdered in 2000.  This is just barely history.  It isn’t the noted and archived history which we learn about in school, but rather something still breathing in the daily life of the residents.  

This mural is about a block and half away from our hostel.

On that same block a little girl came running out of her house, giving us the finger as her parents smiled and laughed.  

I would like to say however, that this hasn’t been my experience in Dublin whatsoever, nor have any other students I’ve talked to reported such blatant, or even subtler racism in the counties they are studying in throughout the Republic.  However, this could be due to the fact that there just isn’t a lot of diversity to begin with, so it might just not be as obvious.  Or we could just not notice, given our horrible blindness we displayed over the weekend.  

These events won’t be leaving my mind any time soon, and for that I am grateful because they deserve a great deal of thought from all of us.  

Friday, September 25, 2009

      At this moment, Dublin is highly in touch with its collective consciousness.  If you went out of your flat yesterday, you couldn't help getting into at least three conversations about each of the following.  

  1. The Lisbon Vote
From what I can gather (my main sources have been outspoken men in pubs, so bear that in mind), the importance of the Lisbon vote is not in the details of the Treaty, but rather what a ratification would mean for the Republic symbolically.  
In general, and this is in no ways a defining statement, those who are rallying for a No vote are of the Old Guard.  Ex-, or current, IRA members, sympathizers and those over a certain age are campaigning against the Lisbon Treaty because they see it as forfeiting Ireland’s power in Europe and undermining the Constitution of the Republic.  On this side of the debate, it seems to me that the motivation is stemming from a dire will to be an independent state.  While this might seem like an outdated fear to some, it is actually quite understandable given the history of the past century in Ireland.  

The campaign to ratify Lisbon is helmed by the Youth and student voices.  Any bar that you walk into within a reasonable distance from Trinity, someone will undoubtably strike up a conversation with you by pointing a finger at your heart and threatening, “what are you voting on Lisbon?” Now, this is all in good-natured slagging really, but if you say you are leaning towards a No vote, things could get quite serious quite quickly.  We found this out the hard way when several of my peers were convinced they would vote No by the many signs posted on streetlamps across the country - which were then later discovered to basically be propaganda.  
There was a certain desire within us to be in support of that old Irish Rebel Cause - the fiery desire to be independent of Britain.  This is the romanticized Irish Politics we see as radical.  However, in reality, that brand of politics is now quite a stick in the mud.  The reality is, Ireland IS an independent state - now the problem is the problem that every other European country has: how do the European states work together while maintaining their own individual National identity and pride?

        2. Yesterday was National Arthur’s Day.  

        I walked through a street in the city centre where I was caught in the middle of a hundred plus people group toast to Arthur Guiness and his brew.  However, not all Irishmen were proud to celebrate the man - one local pub patron was quite adamant that we were celebrating the drink and not the man because Arthur Guiness persecuted the catholics, to which another patron replied, “Yes, but didn’t they all?”


Monday, September 21, 2009


The one overarching theme of my time in Ireland so far is “Money, Money, Money”.  It seems as if “they” who make up the prices of things, or that is to say the “market”, just plops a euro sign in front of an american price for say, a pint, and calls it a day.  I must stop doing the conversions from euros to dollars in my head because that is a surefire way to frustration and insanity.  But no matter, I’ve made a budget for myself - Ha, we will see how long I can stick to that.  
The most expensive budget category in Ireland would definitely be entertainment.   One can find food, especially produce, for relatively to very cheap.  However, buy that same food and serve it in a restaurant? The prices become outrageous.  And maybe a bit ironically, it is incredibly expensive to go to pubs.  You would be hardpressed to find a pint for under 4.50 Euro, or around 6.25 Dollars.  
So, the obvious solution is to buy liquor or beer, or my new favorite, cider, from your local Off-License (Liquor Store), and do what we Americans call “pre-gaming”.  In Ireland they have a comparable practice called “sessioning”, although “sessioning” could be done at any point, not just before going to the pubs or clubs, but before, after and instead of.  
“Sessioning” is basically just a verb used to describe sitting at a buddy’s house and drinking instead of being at a bar - not a house party, but something more chill than that.  
This past weekend, the five people I’m studying abroad with went to Waterford to stay with two different families.  One group attended an Irish Christening and the family party afterwards, while Julia and I got shown the town by the 23 year old son of our family.  It would seem that these two weekends would be quite opposite, but they are tied together in similarity by the thread of drink.  
In America, we would tend to assume that any religious celebration and family party would not, at least not so blatantly and with such excess, be focused on drinking.  However, when we told our new friends that the other Americans would be at a christening, the response was “Oh, they’ll be hammered then”.  
Another interesting note on the christening; One of the Irish fellows we met explained the tradition of christening this way: “Oh, everyone gets christened.  I’m not religious at all, but if I had a kid, it would get christened”.  
This would be a nice segway to a bit of reflection on religion in Ireland, but to be honest I don’t have the energy.  Let it suffice to say, it holds a truly bizarre place in the fabric of an Irish life.  More on that later when I have the energy to try and translate to the page some of the speech we were given on Irish Identity by a professor of English at University College, Dublin.  
Settling in to life in Dublin has proven to be a tad difficult.  Last night was actually the first night that we stayed in our apartment overnight.  Apparently the Irish electricity company, ESB, are a bunch of buggers.  However, today the fun continues! Fresher’s Week!

Edit: Day One of Fresher's Week cost me 42 Euro - Membership fees for five clubs (The Phil, The Alternative Music Society, DU Food and Drink, the Publications Society and the International Student's Society), plus a 5 Day Pass for Fresher's Fest 2009.

         Yes, this school is so big that it has its own festival to mark the beginning of term - I'm not at Sarah Lawrence anymore...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Am I Really Here? Or is this just the inflight movie...

First of all, jetlag is a drag, friends.  After travelling for many years with at least one other person to motivate me through this stage, I am finding it very difficult to force myself to stay up past 5pm.  
        Scene: 12:30 (Must use the 24 hour clock now).  Students start to pour into the common room of the Abbey Court Hostel, awaiting the 2:30 check-in time with exhausted eagerness.  I pass out for an hour in a couch, and wake up about thirty 20-30 somethings sprawled out on various surfaces throughout the common room, obviously suffering from the same illness as I.  I.E. It's four in the morning in my body!
However, I can’t be too disappointed in myself.  No, my day was not jam-packed with activity, but I completed a fair amount of “holy-shit-i’m-in-dublin”.  Did not take any pictures, did not do any strictly tourist activities, but rather simply let myself acclimate to the surroundings. I’ve found that if you try to absorb a city too quickly, before you are mentally prepared, you end up with a general feeling of a place, rather than specific memories.  I generally feeled Dublin out today, but made some memories as well.  It’s only my first day, and already so much has happened.  
Darkey Kelley’s, the bar I had dinner in, has a propritier named George who’s son is studying at Trinity as well.  He asked Chicago was indeed windy, to which I responded “why, yes, we do talk a lot”.  I think my response might have been lost in translation.  
This evening, while I was reading my orientation packet on the bank of the River Liffey, I met a man named Nelson.  He asked me for a lighter for his cigarette and proceeded to ask me many questions about myself, and my goals in life.  His personal philosophy is to always pick the positive route in life - that’s how you reach your goals.  Dublin, he says, is filled with negative, a city full of sin.  It’s always easier to choose the shiny (or in his words ‘golden’) negative path, but that will get you nowhere.  He appreciated my study of philsophy, saying that asking questions is the only way you could get answers.  Born in Africa to a mother from Madagascar and a Camroonian father, Nelson (or Emmanuel as he later asked me to call him) had lived in both the States and in Europe.  
He described his love of survival - that’s why he chooses to live in cities like New York and Dublin, where he believes daily life to be a fight for survival.  He feels it makes him appreciate his life more.  I don’t know if that is the life I will choose, but I can say for sure that I admire it.  Surviving by choice, not by force of circumstance, is the path of a person strongly committed to their beliefs, not just in theory, but in reality.  
Emmanuel asked me to accompany him to some birthday party at an undisclosed location that was in need of fresh blood, but the savvy traveler in me took that as a cue to say my goodbyes.  Although I know I made the smart decision, I’m disappointed I won’t get to hear more about his philosophy and how he is living it.  
I always admire people who can share so much of themselves with some random person on a park bench, and so eloquently.  Emmanuel has no idea who I am, but I have a blurry picture of his outlook on life from that five minutes on the side of the river.  
        Scene: The Negative Path. 1500. Outside a young adult club behind my hostel on Abbey Road.  Five or six young teenagers  loitering on a stoop laughing and chatting with a member of the Gardai (Irish Police Force), while their friend is passed out on top of herself precariously balanced near a pool of her own vomit.  The Gardai is laughing along with the kids, barely glancing at the girl.  This strikes me as extremely disturbing, but in actuality, it could be a quite positive moment.  Maybe progress has been made in creating a more productive relationship between the Law and the Youth? I'm sure I will discover a more concrete answer soon.  Again, I'd like to reiterate that it was 3pm.  Perhaps I like the fact that the drinking age is 21 in the States, so I don't have to see my friends little brothers and sisters passed out on the stoop of the Woodlawn Tap at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.  
Cheers for now!

Thinking About a Guinness?

Thinking About a Guinness?