Beginning at the End

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When I have had a big event, a big adventure or just something interesting happen in my life, I almost always have to spend a little time processing it, usually out loud and on these pages.

Having just returned from a weeklong trip to Ireland, I’m pretty sure that readers here will be treated to (tormented by?) several posts about my days in Dublin. I had such a wonderful time and I want to get all the stories out and onto the page.

The question is, where to begin? Some would say start at the beginning. Some would say start somewhere in the middle when things begin to get good. Others still say to start wherever you want.

The thing is, I usually don’t get a say in where to begin telling a story. The Muse has a mind of her own and she tends to open one sliding door in my mind to show me what she’s interested in, while keeping the other doors firmly closed until she’s good and ready.

What I mean today is that there is one story, one experience, that keeps replaying in my mind. It is the sum of my entire view of Ireland and probably belongs at the end of the entire tale.

But why cave to the convention of putting the end of the story at the end? This is what I want to write, so this is what will be written. For today, at least.

Here we go…

The hotel where I stayed was in a rather upscale suburb of Dublin named Donnybrook. Back in the day, Donnybrook used to be the scene of an event called the Donnybrook Fair. And by “back in the day”, I mean like the 1200’s through the 1800s.

Evidently that event turned from a nice twelve-day fair, fun for the whole family, to a drunken brawling event. In fact the very word donnybrook has come to mean a brawl or fracas.

The Catholic Church took a dim view of this debauchery (as they are wont to do) and ultimately lobbied for the fair to shut down, mainly by building a church right at the event site.

This is a great story, I love it, but it’s kind of tangential. Let me get back on track. In this wonderful Donnybrook neighborhood, there are quite a few shops, restaurants and a couple pubs.

One of the pubs, named McCloskey’s, was about a half a block away from where I was staying. I could see it from the window in my hotel room.




Image found here.


I had walked past the place quite a few times but was never brave enough to go in. Something about genuine pubs kind of intimidates me. It’s a mix of the expected amount of hesitation being a woman going into a bar alone, and my propensity to overworry that I’ll somehow say or do something that breaks the unwritten protocol of the pub.

I also never am sure how Americans are perceived so it’s always a little tentative for me. Which is silly because of the pubs I’ve encountered in the UK and now Ireland, it’s always been a lovely experience.

On Thursday after what had been a busy and intense workweek, I decided to go inside McCloskey’s. I was hungry, I love pub food, and I was in desperate need of a pint.

With a deep breath, I opened the door and went in. I walked the length of the place to give it a look-see and decided to stay, taking up a corner seat at the bar.

The bartender was a fireplug of a man, in his early fifties, with a pugilistic look about him and a vibe that was clear he knew how to run a pub. He could and would toss your ass out without hesitation and with force.

He came over and slid a napkin on the bar like skipping a rock and asked, “What’ll you have?”

“A pint of Guinness,” I replied with confidence. He nodded with a grunt and poured the beer. In hindsight, I should have just said “A Guinness,” the pint is understood.

What a lovely pint it was. A perfect pour, the perfect temperature, perfect creamy foam on top. Oh yes. I wanted to take a picture of it so I could always remember that beautiful moment, but thought better of it. It felt like the bartender may take a dim view of selfies and Instagram in his pub.

As he set the pint down I asked, “Can I order some food?”

“Er, yeah, we have a stew, the fish and something else I can’t remember” he said.

“I’ll have the fish,” I said.

“Fish and chips, you know?”

“Yep!”

He grunted again and went off to the kitchen to place the order. I sat there feeling tense and sipping my beer. There were really only about four people in the pub, all quietly drinking and keeping to themselves. 1970’s disco played from a small boom box to fill the atmosphere.

Next to me was a stack of local newspapers so I picked one up and read it, giving me something to do as I sat alone and tried to act normal.

After a bit my food came and it was so delicious. Light and crispy cod, perfect chips and slices of tomato. I ate it joyfully and drank my Guinness and suddenly everything was really right with the world.

During this time, the bartender mostly ignored me. He was friendly but distant. Gruff but fair, I suppose, and that was fine.

While I ate, a group of people came in. They were obviously all family, and they took up chairs and seats around several tables. Then more and more kept arriving. There were probably twenty or more people and one older gentleman with graying hair was buying all the drinks.

These folks were all in a good mood and talking excitedly. At one point someone teased the older man about “never being around” and he tipped his pint glass to them and said, “now that’s one thing you can never say about my term! My opponent can’t say the same.”

It was then I sussed out that this might be a local politician. I heard someone call him by his first name and as I was texting the play by play to The Good Man, he did a quick Google search and we discovered I was in the pub with the local councilman. Elections were due to be held the next day. My guess is he was out celebrating the end of his campaign run with friends and family.

As the crowd grew, it became such a convivial atmosphere. I sat next to one of his daughters and we chatted and laughed. Her son, who looked to be about five, ordered a cranberry juice and wanted it served in a Guinness pint glass. Everyone bought and ate small cans of Pringles.

As ever more people kept piling in, I kind of felt like I needed to get out of there. I’m sure I could have stayed and been fine, but I started to feel like an outsider.

So I hopped up from my barstool and went over the cash register where the bartender stood. He turned to me and I said, “I’d like to tab out, please.”

“Oh sure,” he replied and began ringing me up.

“That will be twelve euros fifty,” he said. I handed him a twenty euro bill.

He took it and looked me, touched my hand and said, “You doing okay, darlin’? Was everything all right?” with genuine concern in his eyes.

I replied, “Yes, it was great. I’m…I’m just a little jet lagged and very low energy.”

He had a sparkle in his eye when he smiled, then tapped my hand again and said, “That’s okay, darlin’, you still look gorgeous!” He laughed like a schoolboy while he got my change.

He put the bills and coins in my palm and said, “now you have a good night, eh?”

I left the pub with a smile on my face. Now that, the whole story and everything in it, that’s Ireland to me.

It is a wonderful, charming and friendly place. I loved every minute of the time I spent in the city of Dublin and the district of Donnybrook.




A view from my hotel room. Lovely! Copyright © Karen Fayeth, 2014




A Pirate Looks at Forty-Five

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Mother, mother ocean, after all the years I’ve found
My occupational hazard being (that) my occupation’s just not around
I feel like I’ve drowned, gonna head uptown

–“A Pirate Looks at Forty” by Jimmy Buffet

Yeah, I might be taking a few liberties with a very fine Jimmy Buffet song that did not make a lot of sense to me when I was in my twenties and seems rather spot on now.

I find myself sneaking up rather quickly on the milestone age of forty-five. Or rather it’s sneaking up on me. What a milestone, I’m not even sure what it means. There are ages old enough to vote, old enough to drink, and then it all kind of gets muddled after that.

At this point in my life, I’m in a place where I don’t love my birthdays most years. For reasons that aren’t clear to even me, this particular trip around the sun is a little rough on me. Or maybe they are all a little rough on me these days.

And so weirdly (or not so weirdly) enough I have been thinking about that Buffet song dating back to the jolly era of 1975. The song is about a man who laments the fact that he was born too late to be a pirate. Jack Sparrow kind of pirate, not Somalia kind of pirate.

The man in the lyrics looks at his life and wonders what might have been. I have a very rich internal life and while I love my life today, I do often think about the what-ifs.

Yo ho ho, the pirate life isn’t quite the one for me, but I do have laments of being born too late. A hazard of the years going by, I suppose.

I’m not so unlike the main character in “Midnight in Paris” who wishes to live in the era where writers were valued and were paid quite well for their work. Where art wasn’t as much of a business as it is today.

I recently read a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald and grew ever more green with envy over how Scott Fitzgerald could keep them in a very high life simply by writing and publishing a few short stories.

I’m not implying he didn’t work hard at his craft. I’ve read some of his shorter works and of course “The Great Gatsby” and the man could write. But he also had a venue for those stories, popular magazines that were both willing and able to pay.

Oh to live a life where I could install myself in a Parisian pub with a bottle of Spanish red and write my words. Then know I might get many rejections, but when I get that “yes” that it really meant something on a large scale.

I was singing this sort of tune in my head over the weekend and because Fate is one hell of a comedian, I received an acceptance on an essay I had submitted to a very fine online publication. I am quite proud to contribute to this literary magazine, but the timing couldn’t have been more humorous.

One of my coworkers recently had occasion to read one of my published short stories about a scuba diver (if you haven’t read it, I’ll direct you to the right column of this page). She is also a scuba diver and she liked the story very much.

“You are such a talented writer! Why do you do this job?” she asked, and laughed.

“Because that doesn’t pay, and this does,” I said and sighed.

Oh, it could. Maybe one day. With a lot of work and a lot of sweat and a lot of blood and a mountain of rejection letters under my feet.

But as I sidle up to age forty-five, it sometimes feels like my best years have passed.

I once knew a bluesman who could play a muddy, gorgeous telecaster like he was drinking water. He made it look easy. So easy people were always sure they could do it like he did, and when they wondered aloud to him why it was so hard, they would say, “You must have just been born talented.”

He would reply, “Yeah, and at age twelve I picked up a guitar and played it every day until my fingers bled, and then every day since.”

Talent is nothing without hard work. I am more than happy to do the work, and I actually do the work every day. I type my words until my wrist aches and my head hurts. Then I write some more.

There are many days I simply wish I had started writing seriously earlier in my life when energy and time were not an issue. Then again, what did a bubbleheaded girl like me have to write about?

Maybe I had to live a little before I could open a vein and write the words.

Oh well, this is my journey. Not anyone else’s. Forty-five it is and forty-five it must be.

The dread leading up to the day started to wane in the final days. Resignation set in and now I suppose I’m okay. I tried on forty-five and it fit like a shiny new pair of fine leather shoes. A little tight and squeaky at first, but breaking in nicely.





If I’m going to overwork a metaphor, I should probably reuse a photo of a very favorite pair of well broken in boots






Image Copyright © 2010, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page.



And I Was Completely Sober

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That is a great post title. It really is. I could go anywhere after that.

But I have something in mind and I promise I am sober as a judge as I tell my tale. (Then again, I know quite a few judges who like a little splash in the coffee mug.)

Yesterday afternoon, during the joy of a holiday from work, I went outside to take some photos. My photography club is back in full swing and this month’s theme is black & white or contrast. I had already taken one photo that I really love and was looking for my second. We get two entries each month.

Lacking any good ideas, I went outside to see what I could see, snapping here and there and everywhere to find something.

My skills in black and white photography aren’t that good (I like color), so I was shooting lots of different things so I could learn and enhance my ability.

About an hour into my backyard photowalk I remembered that around the corner is a magnolia tree in full bloom. I think the unseasonably warm California winter has confused the poor tree.

I headed over to take a look and found it still blooming, so I snapped and snapped lots of photos. I set up shots. I fiddled with my camera. I enjoyed the late afternoon golden light.

And then as I looked at these flowers through my viewfinder, I realized something…….

Some of the magnolia blossoms have faces.

Below I present my evidence.

This was the first face I saw. I thought it was just a one off:



Photo © Copyright Karen Fayeth, 2014


But wait, there was another. Less obvious, but definitely a face:



Photo © Copyright Karen Fayeth, 2014


And another. This one I thought looked scary at first. The more I looked, the more it seemed to be laughing with leafy arms spread wide open:



Photo © Copyright Karen Fayeth, 2014


And another, this one more cranky:



Photo © Copyright Karen Fayeth, 2014


Then this one, with a little bit of a surprised rounded O face:



Photo © Copyright Karen Fayeth, 2014


I call this one the Picasso as it takes a little to see it and the face is a bit askew:



Photo © Copyright Karen Fayeth, 2014


Then I noticed that Laughy and Cranky seemed to be having a little party together:



Photo © Copyright Karen Fayeth, 2014


Everywhere I looked, there were little magnolia faces looking back at me. Grumpy ones and happy ones and wilty ones and crazy ones. Little sweet smelling blossom faces everywhere my eyes fell.

I giggled with the joy of it all, reveling in the ridiculously silly ways of Mother Nature.

Then a couple pushing a stroller walked by. They looked at me from the sides of eyes, wondering at the crazy wild haired lady laughing with the tree.

Their toddler girl said to me, “Look! I have a Hello Kitty on my pocket!”

I replied, “You sure do!”

That toddler understands. She gets me. To a child with a Hello Kitty on her pocket, the lady laughing with the tree is just fine. Quite normal. To be expected.

I’m so glad someone understands.

Meanwhile, I’ll never look at a magnolia tree in quite the same way again.


_________________


(side note: I believe the most definitive magnolia photo I have ever seen was taken by my friend and fellow New Mexican, Avelino Maestas. I knew whatever photo I would take of the magnolia blossoms would pale in comparison to the photo I used as my phone’s wallpaper for well over a year. Salud, Avelino!)





All photos © Copyright Karen Fayeth, 2014 and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with a Canon G10 and touched up a bit in Photoshop.




Stymied

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I don’t know what to write I don’t know what to write I don’t know what to write.

Yes, that’s a good old-fashioned trick now isn’t it?

What to write about when there is nothing to write about?

Oh, sure, there are an infinite number of things to write about, but all of those fabulous ideas seem to be on the wing. None are alighting on my brain and fingers and soul and pouring ideas into me so I can flow them out onto the keyboard.

Maybe it is because I am too content? Don’t they say really great art comes from pain?

I am just off of a very long and much needed holiday break from work. I have just had lunch. I slept really well last night.

My hair even looks great today.

I’m not kidding. Gaze upon those locks lying in the place I asked them nicely to lay.




Let’s not chat about what I had to do to get a good selfie while at work.
I work in an “open plan” office. Yeah. Just…don’t ask.



Wow. I mean, things are kind of going my way which is GREAT for me but terrible for me the artist.

The only thing grinding my gears today is that I want to write a beautiful, meaningful, magical post.

I want to say some words that I read later and think, “I wrote that?” and then go, “Yeeaaah, I WROTE THAT!”

That is so cool. I love that feeling. It’s a dopamine rush like no other.

But alas what I have so far today is a lot of words about making words and none of those words transcending the screen and taking flight.

Poop.

Yes. I said poop. And I am not sorry.

Ok, over 250 words into this thing and I need to save it before this goes into the mental rubbish bin and I shrug my shoulders and give up and eat another cookie.

Oh, did I forget to mention cookies? Yeah, I have those today too.

I mean can this day GET any better? Not by much, honestly.

So shall I write words of joy and sing songs of happy?

It seems readers like so much better to read tales of woe and pain and hubris and pathos.

Went and got all Greek on ya there, didn’t I?

So maybe I break the mold today. Separate from the pack. Do something different.

Something that means something to me today.

Hello. Welcome to Tuesday, the Fourteenth of January.

I am in an exceptionally good mood today, and being happy makes for uninteresting reading, but for a very knockout day.

I feel so good I want to share it. May your Tuesday be as awesome as possible as well.

Break from the pack and REALLY enjoy your day. Do it just to spite the haters, the grumblers and the cranky pants of this world.

I dare you.






Image of me, by me, Copyright Me, 2014. Don’t go mucking around with my photo of me, damn it! Taken with an iPhone5, the Camera+ App and loads of vanity. But look at that hair!

Goldfish image found here.