Sure Signs

Drive on left airport sign Dublin Ireland

AKA: These sure are signs!

Many exciting things are happening around here.

So many of them, in fact, and so exciting, that I don’t have the time or energy to report on them before August is over!!

Therefore, please indulge in the following selection of funny signs collected on Arthur’s and my second annual work-related pilgrimage to Ireland, plus this time Scotland:

Anteater sign outside museum in Dublin Ireland

Dublin National History Museum making everyone feel welcome

Beware of Cyclists sign Dublin Ireland

Usually good advice

Thermos Museum poster Edinburgh Fringe

My kind of culture! (off the beaten path at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival)

Good work

Good work, team

Flour and eggs exam sign University of Edinburgh

When I finished my exams, I usually just went home

Choking to Death on a Currant Bun

How did we miss this show??

Just Falafs funny falafel sign

One of the better food-related puns we came across

Last but not least, a reassuring sign of the times:

Drag nun with round glasses

???

A drag nun performing at the Frankenstein pub during the Edinburgh Fringe!!!

As you (hopefully) do some gallivanting around this Labor Day weekend, keep those eyes peeled for fun in written form. Send me your faves and I’ll post ’em on the blog!

Ireland: You had to (have to) be there

I lived in Ireland the summer of 2002, right after I graduated from college. I shared a house with a gaggle of girls on the outskirts of Galway; worked in an old men’s pub in the evenings and a coffee shop during the day; and left town as much as I could on the weekends to see the neighboring sea cliffs, sheep fields, matchmaking festivals (events run from “after Mass, till late”), and all the other things that make this diminutive green country so very Irish. (I would paste up a photo or two here, but they were all taken with real film!!)

When Arthur was tasked with going to Dublin for work earlier this month, I happily packed up my laptop and tagged along. While he was in the office, I worked from our third-floor walk-up accommodations in the amazingly named neighborhood of Ballsbridge, venturing occasionally to our local chapter of Insomnia Coffee for a sweet treat and some B-grade European pop music. We took a couple of days off at the end of the week to travel around, and I could shower you for hours with anecdotes of all the wonderful Irish-ness we encountered, but you probably only have time for a wee dose, so I’ll just pick a few.

Killarney National Park: Meeting of the Waters

Killarney National Park: Meeting of the Waters

  • At a Thai restaurant in Killarney, after we finished an excellent bike ride through the area’s drop-dead gorgeous national park, we were tapped by the group of middle-aged guys at the next table for our opinions of one guy’s sock-and-shoe choice (a potent combo of orange and blue striped stockings with tan leather Oxfords). Our hearty approval touched off a good 15 minutes of conversation, in which our suspicions that the Irish and American definitions of “salty” and “spicy” vary considerably were confirmed. (Arthur used to work with an Irish woman who, in fact, told him of their famously bland food, “Ah yes, we do consider salt a spice.”) One of the men pointed to the bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce on the table and called it “Kill a Man.” When another asked if I’d tried the Sriracha and I said we had a bottle in our fridge at home, he just put his head in his hands.
Paddy Fahy's pub in Galway, Ireland

Paddy Fahy’s pub in Galway, Ireland

  • It was fascinating to go back to Galway and see my old haunts. Or really, try to see them. I found I remembered relatively little, at least geographically, of my time there. Thankfully, I still had the address of the pub stowed in my mind, and we were able to find it without trouble (though it was shut tight on a Saturday night—Paddy, where are you??), but I couldn’t locate the big yellow house I’d shared with the girls, the town’s centerpiece Eyre Square could have been dropped in from Barcelona for all I knew, and I realized I had no memory of the routes I’d walked between home and my jobs every day. (The locally owned coffee shop, we deduced, was gone, most likely replaced by a Mocha Beans, the national chain that seems to be everywhere now.) I’m sure I’ll be stewing on the reasons for this mental blank-out for a while; for now, I can only chalk it up to all the other stuff I’ve crammed my brain with in the past 15 years putting the squeeze on older memories!
Bobby Sands mural in Belfast

Bobby Sands mural in Belfast

  • We took a “black cab” tour of Belfast, something I’d wanted to do but been a little nervous about when I was last in Ireland. I’m so glad we did it this time, though it did indeed put me on edge to hear someone who had lived through it tell of the decades of violent struggle the people here have endured—as well as the fact that, despite never hearing a word about it in American news anymore, the conflict is still not resolved. Aside from the sights we saw (which included many haunting murals, images of the frightening bonfires still held in Protestant neighborhoods today, and the “peace wall”), it was the nature of the tour I found so arresting: a professional cab driver, a Catholic native to Belfast, was our only host, so the tour was super visceral, emotional, and biased. I loved it. Yet I was so caught off guard by everything I internalized in such a short time (such as the concept that this isn’t so much a religious conflict as one between colonizer and colonized) that, even though I had about a hundred questions flying through my mind, I noticed myself keeping as mum as the Swiss couple who shared our cab. Stupefying though it was, the experience was a pointed reminder that, no matter how well we think we’re keeping up with news from abroad, there’s no substitute for being there to help round out our understanding of the world.

By the end of our trip, I had absolutely drunk the Irish kool-aid (and, this time, I don’t mean the Guinness!). Despite some pretty crap weather and a few meals no amount of salt or hot sauce could save, I felt the magic and soul of this little dewy island that’s seen so much. Thanks for having me again, Éire.

Bearded Men O The West postcard Ireland
Red window with pink flowers in Galway Ireland
Near the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in County Antrim

Labor Day fantasy fun-times: The famous river surfers of Munich

Perhaps you are preparing to engage in a water-related activity of some kind this holiday weekend: a little frolicsome jet-skiing, some picturesque ocean snorkeling, or just a lazy rowboat ride around the lake.

If you are, mazel tov! But if, like me, you’re poised to stay largely indoors this weekend, deluged with work (always a good problem to have!), planning your wedding, and perhaps freaking out about a possible upcoming house purchase, then you will want to identify some good Labor Day fantasy fun-time water activities that you can enjoy by simply imagining yourself doing them. Right?

I already found my go-to, courtesy of my excellent cousin Geoff, who was in Europe for work a few months ago and sent me this photo, with the included caption:

River surfers in Munich Germany

“Yesterday, I saw the famous river surfers of Munich in action!”

I loved what I saw, but had evidently been living under a rock and was not yet aware of this exotic species. To ensure I would be absorbing only the most objective and rigorously fact-checked information on the topic, I turned to Vice, which explained that the powerful wave in the Eisbach River (a small, man-made arm of the Isar River) where these dudes do their thing is “the result of a rare mistake in German engineering.”

Apparently, a series of concrete blocks was submerged in the Eisbach in the ’70s to slow its flow before it reached the calm canals of Munich’s English Garden, located a ways down the river. An unintended effect of the blocks was the creation of a rapid. That plus some additional manipulation of the area by surfers (in the form of lashing their spare boards to some nearby bridge pylons) worked together to form the Eisbachwelle!, now Germany’s premier surfing wave.

So there we have it: legendary inland surfing (sometimes inland nude surfing, according to Vice) in a country otherwise not well-known for its beaches. What a lovely plot twist!

If that type of unanticipated wonder is possible, maybe I should hold out hope for scoring a little outdoor time (and maybe even some water time?) this Labor Day weekend after all.

Inking my summer vacation

Arthur and I are bound for Europe tomorrow, to enjoy two and a half weeks of burning hot Mediterranean sun; explaining our vegetarianism in broken Italian, Polish, Czech, and Hungarian; and attending the weddings of two lovely and sophisticated women we do not know well.

I’ve been nose to the grindstone for the past few weeks preparing to basically shut down my freelance biz for the better part of August. Woo! I also tasked myself with the related duty of finishing my last journal and buying a new one to start on the trip. Last Friday, I done did it!

Goodbye, old friend; hello, new... friend

Goodbye, old friend; hello, new… friend

I always feel way too smugly satisfied when I retire a finished journal (do you know how much genius is in there??), but then I’m always proportionately humbled when I realize how daunted I feel when faced with all those brand-new, blank pages.

I guess parts of Europe are at least marginally inspiring. So here’s to jump-starting the new spiral guy with quotes overheard at smoky outdoor cafes, stories about making out in the shadows of really old churches, and old-school overnight train tickets pressed between the pages.