Friday, December 24, 2010


Oxford is moew or less how I expected it. A smallish town with a bustling city center. Nothing built after 1800. Plenty of old churches and towers and bells. O a walk one day, I went into the Oxford Botanic Gardens. Not as stunning or aesthetically pleasing as the gardens in Denver, but it has an atmosphere of constancy and stability. You walk in and are overcome by the history of the place. It must have looked just like this up to 400 years ago.

I came upon a particularly ancient tree. A sign informed me that it had been planted during the English civil war in 1645. I walked on and noticed stone pots with intricate carvings that, due to the forces of nature, were now only suggestions of the things they once exemplified. The smells were vibrant and alive.

Oxford University, as best I could tell, stretches across the better part of the town. Different schools and colleges are around virtually every corner.

The people are young and bicycles abound. There is also a great live theatre scene in Oxford. I had the pleasure of seeing both "The Laramie Project" and "The Pillowman" by Martin McDonagh. It was dark, like most of his, but this one was far more chilling. Mary Schuttler and Matt Lang will love it.

In Oxford, I had the pleasure of staying with Liz White, who is a great friend from UNC. We acted together in several plays, most notably, "Tartuffe" and "The Laramie Project".

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Think Outside the Bottle

This blog was originally posted at TheSocioCapitalist.

My dad has always wondered about bottled water. He jokes that if he went to a bottled water factory, he'd probably find a guy out back filling thousands of bottles of water with a garden hose. It's funny 'cause its true.

According to Corporate Accountability International, 40% of bottled water comes from the same sources at tap water. So when you are shelling out a couple bucks for a bottle of Coke's Dasani, Pepsi's Aquafina, or Nestle's Pure Life, you might as well be drinking from my dad's garden hose.

If you're like me, you buy bottled water, not because you think it is better than tap water, but because of the convenience of having a bottle of water AND getting to throw it away (hopefully in a recycle bin) when you are done. You probably even know it is not a good thing to do, but what choice do you have? It's a pain to go to the drinking fountain, again and again, if there is even one around.

The truth is, environmental and social problems you are contributing to when you buy a bottle of water are something we all should be ashamed of. It may be convenient, but the costs are unbelievable. The reason the system I am about to describe exists is because of us. If you don't like this, stop supporting it.

Water is essential to life. We need to drink it every day, and without it, we cannot produce any food to eat. Access to water is a human right, yet the production of bottled water is draining wells and depleting stores of groundwater in places like India, were the people who rely on their wells have no feasible alternative to get clean water. Because bottled water manufacturers are not required to disclose the source of their water, there is no way to hold them accountable for the impact they have on communities whose water they are taking. Not cool.

Plastic bottles are an environmental disaster. This is no surprise, but if you haven't heard it before, the vast majority of trash in the ocean is plastic. To quote Wikipedia,
"Unlike debris, which biodegrades, the photodegraded plastic disintegrates into ever-smaller pieces . . . This process continues down to the molecular level."
At some point, the plastic is small enough to be ingested by fish and other critters and enters the food chain. Not cool.

Bottled water is big money. About $15 Billion per year is spent on bottled water in the US, and about $110 Billion globally. It is no wonder that people make bottled water. It is making them rich. That will be the case, including the nasty human rights and environmental impacts, as long as people still buy it. According to Corporate Accountability International, spending that same amount annually, on ensuring that all people had access to clean water, would achieve that goal by 2025.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., three out of four of us drink bottled water, and one out of five drink it exclusively.

Okay, Okay, but what about when you're flying or forgot to bring your metal water bottle? You can bring those bottles through airport security empty, and fill them up at a drinking fountain near your gate. That way you don't have to wait for the flight attendants to get to you with the cart either. As for when you just forgot your bottle, think about who needs a drink more: you, or the kid in India whose well you could be taking it from. Seriously.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Jerry Springer Opera

Liecster Square is a touristy, trendy, yet charming little area on the West Side of London.  The actual square is fountain surrounded by statues and hand prints of movie stars.  Charlie Chaplain stands above a few bendies and Sir Sean Connery, Jude Law, Patrick Swayze and  host of others have had thier hands immortalized in gold-colored cement.

Liecester Square is at the heart of the theatre scene in London as well.  Everywhere you look there are advertisements for shows, and more importantly, discount tickets for those shows.  It was here that I found two relatively cheap tickets to the Jerry Springer Opera.

I had arrived in London's Victoria Station via Gatwick Airport the day before.  Finding the hostel, which turned out to be on the Northwest side of Hyde Park turned out to be something of a trick.  However, after refusing to attempt the underground on my first day, my aching feet and back were able to finally relax at the hostel.

That night I met a fascinating 26 year-old woman named Rebecca.  We talked for hours and she mentioned seeing and liking the Jerry Springer Opera.  Now, she was not the kind of person you would guess was a fan of Springer, so I asked her to tell me about it.  At three in the morning, we parted company with the agreement that I would try to get tickets the following day.

And so, after a brief phone conversation with my sister, an attempt at sleep despite the 5:00AM arrival of my roommates, and a narrowly missed free breakfast, I was off in search of tickets.  While tickets were the priority, there was also the small matter of where to stay that night. The Hyde Park Hostel was expensive and I olny booked it for one night.  My hope was that I would be able to contact a friend in London (Lauren) and stay with her.  But first things first: tickets.

I asked in one shop and the man said £35 or £40.  The conversion rate is nearly 2-1 so that meant $70 or $80.  I knew I could do better.  I went to the official TKTS booth where they advertised £27.5 or $55.  On I searched.  I saw sign with a huge banner reading: "Jerry! Jerry!"  Ah!  A clue Sherlock!  In that shop: £20 or $40.  I thought I would get two tickets, and give one to Lauren (if I ever got a call through to her).  When the clerk called to get my tickets, the voice on the other end informed her that £20 tickets were sold out, but she still had a few for £25.  I decided to splurge.

Several hours later, I had successfully contacted Lauren and was on my way out to see her.  After a few tubes followed by a few busses,, I found myself in an area of Northeastern London called Angel.  Angel is to London as the Bronx is to New York, very ethnically diverse, and predominantly low-income.  I found her flat with little trouble and was astonished by how nice it was.  Two big bedrooms, a big bathroom, living room, dining room, and a kitchen.  Nice view, nice furniture, nice flat.  We chatted for a while and then decided to go.

The show started at 8:30.  We took a bus into the West End theater district.  I have trouble reading my watch.  So we sat down to have dinner at an Indian restaurant only to see we only had 10 minutes 'till curtain.  We apologized, got up and went to a coffee shop to get a pre-made sandwich.  7 minutes.  The clerk apologized for his lack of familiarity with the register stating that he had just transferred.  This, of course, was after he had left us standing for what seemed like and eternity as he finished a conversation with a coworker. Finally, we paid and told him to forget the water we had asked for. We rushed out of the store and sat in the middle of a traffic circle to enjoy our sandwiches. 2 minutes.  We didn't bother to finish chewing when we got up and darted into the theatre.

We took our seats and as the lights went down, the woman in front of us shouted "Jerry! Jerry!"  It was a harbinger of things to come.  The show opens with the cast who are all decked out in , shall we say white trashed-out clothing, chanting in Gregorian fashion, these extremely complicated harmonics and inspired runs of melody on the word 'Jerry'.  An exaggerated hit on the 'J' was the only clue of the ridiculousness that was to come.

They slowly come down the stairs and begin to, still in Operatic Gregorian style, sing thins like 'chick with a dick' and make crude and vulgar references to to all manner of socially and sexually deviant acts.  The Gregorian suddenly transforms into a rock opera.  The unruly, spotlight-seeking nature of the real Jerry Springer audience is masterfully captured by the cast.

So as not to give anything away, I will simply say that the first act ends with a full Broadway tap number performed by the KKK in front of a burning cross.  The second act is so amazingly irreverent that I am at a loss for words.  All I can say is that I am glad Lauren and I had a beer at intermission.

After the show we went to Lauren's favorite Kabob place and finally back to her house.  The bus ride back was the English version of a Springer audience.  A few girls decked out in part Goth-schoolgirl, and part raver, complete with extacy pacifier with blinking lights.  Also some socially conservative black cockney guys who's most memorable comment was: "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Walking in Irish

On the Northwestern coast of Ireland, in County Donegal, the official language is Irish. Everyone speaks English as well, but all of the street signs are in Irish.  That wouldn't be a problem for people who don't speak Irish as well except that all of the town names are vastly different in English.  For example, if you fly to Ireland, more than likely you will arrive in Ath Cliath, which most people call Dublin.  I was blissfully unaware of this fact until the day I went for a walk.

There are many small peninsulas in the Northwest of Ireland and toward to south end of County Donegal.  Donegal Town is just inland of a peninsula.  Further North, Borbag (sp?) is another such town.  Between the two is Dungloe.  The Peninsula to the West of Dungloe is bordered by spectacular cliffs that drop into the sea.  Waves crash into and explode off of these cliffs in a constant, awe-inspiring display of the force of nature.

About 5 miles from Dungloe is the tiny town of Maghery.  The only shop or business of any kind in Maghery is the Strand View Bar, owned and operated by Conol Gallagher.  A road, in places only big enough for one car, winds through the hills of the penisula to an even smaller town called Crowley.  The road is another 5 miles.  About 3 miles down this road is an even smaller 'track' or 4wd road that also goes to Crowley, but runs along the coast and adds another mile.  From Crowley back to Dungloe, there is another road that runs for 3 miles and then hooks back into the road from Dungloe to Maghery 2 miles from Dungloe, and 3 miles from Maghery.

The plan for the walk was to go with my friend Danny to see a special cliff, continue along the road and then on the track to Crowley, and back to Dungloe where Danny and Di would meet me for a pint at a bar called Sweeney's.  We would depart at half eleven, and meet up around 8:30, giving me time for dinner in Dungloe.  An estimated 10 miles in all.

I packed a rucksack with an apple, a plumb, a flask of tea, some chocolate and the camera.  We were off right on schedule. Danny took me to a place he called the blow hole.  It is an amazing geologic anomaly.  There is a huge ricks shelf that drops into the ocean, but in one place there is a thin, deep crevasse.  It is about 7 feet wide and 200 feet long.  Waves crash into the rocks and are channeled into the crevasse where they continue to rage and boil forward until there is no where to go but up.  Danny says on a stormy day when the tide is in, "up" can be more than 100 feet. 

After exploring some of the cliffs, Danny drove me to the top of the hill and sent me on my way.  I took my time enjoying the breathtaking countryside.  Everywhere there were ruins and streams and free-roaming sheep, all amid spectacular views of other peninsulas with spectacular cliffs far off on the hazy horizon.

Along the road there was a great tree that had fallen in front of a peaceful wee waterfall.  The tree was covered in the greenest moss I had ever seen.  Shortly after passing the tree was the track.  I took it and was stunned by the beauty.  All around me were fields of wheat nestled below white cottages, some with thatched roofs. The golden sunlight dripping off of everything it touched.  I made my way down to the shore.  A boulder field about 300 feet wide and a miles long stretched out before me.  I found a nice boulder and sat watching the back-lit waves crash against the shore. 

After a few minutes, I continued on to Crowley.  I walked on the road to Dungloe (the only road in town) until I came to an intersection.  I walked straight, but soon the road was bad and had vegetation growing in it, so I turned back and took the other road.  I thought of what excellent time I was making.  Only 5 miles to Dungloe.  I would be there in no time.

The road I was on was steep and winding and I began to get tired.  About two miles up the road, there was a great tree that had fallen in front of a peaceful wee waterfall.  I stopped dead in my tracks.  I was almost afraid to look, but there it was: green, green moss.  It was time for a decision.  Continue 8 miles to Dungloe, or turn and walk 7 miles back the way I'd come.  I did what anyone would do in this situation: neither.  I left the road and made straight for the top of the mountain that stood between me and Dungloe.  I reached the top just as the sun dipped below the horizon.

Never underestimate the size of a peninsula in Northern Ireland.  The distance of wild land that stretched out before me made me laugh out loud.  I had to strain to even catch a glimpse of the road far off in the distance.  Trying to hurry now, I made my way down the other side of the mountain.  It was wet and steep and muddy.  There were fences and cliffs.  I fell several times and slid down a fair amount of the mountain. 

I reached the plateau relieved, and a bit bruised.  As I began to walk, I also began to sink.  The ground was so soggy that walking through a field was like walking through a foot of water, but water with roots.  All tolled, the mountain climb and swim through the field took me 2 hours.  I finally found a road and began walking toward the Crowley-Dungloe road.  About 1/2 mile later, my shoes had stopped squirting water, my pants began to dry and I was back on track. 

After dodging cars (as it was now pitch black) I reached the crossroad to Dungloe and Maghery.  Of course neither sign read anything close to either name.  I had a good idea of where I was, so I kept walking.  I had 2 miles to go.  I passed a thick grove of trees and a small river and a school house where the road curved left and an intersection that caused me to turn right.  I thought I must be coming to the town soon.  On the road went and I started to second guess myself, but remembering what happened last time I did that, I kept going. 

The road started to slope down and I thought I would surely wind down into town.  That is exactly what it did.  I saw some lights that were obviously a business.  As I got closer, the lights started to look familiar.  As I got closer still, I'm sure I went pale.  Was it?  Could it be?  Oh God it was!  I was at the front door of a bar owned by Conol Ghallagher: The Strand View and I was in Maghery, not Dungloe. If I thought the top of the mountain was funny, I nearly died laughing here. I had 5 more miles to go after having walked 14. 

I turned and started again.  I turned left at the intersection, right past the schoolhouse past the small river and the thick grove of tress.  I was almost back to where I had made the wrong turn when an angel in a Nissan heeded the call of my outstretched thumb.  So the last two miles of my walk were in the comfort of a much-needed seated position.

I got into Dungloe at about 8:00 (it had been dark for 3 hours).  I got a quick, cheap plate of fish and chips (which never tasted so good), and headed to Sweeney's.  I ordered a hot whiskey and started reading.  I finished the drink and a few chapters and it was 9:00.  No sign of my friends.  I ordered a pint and when I had that finished, it was 10:00.  I asked the bartender if there was another Sweeney's in town.  Yup.  Just down the street.

In the other Sweeney's I found Danny, Di, and 5 or 6 of their friends.  I had finally arrived.  After several pints, it was 2:30 and time for the bar to close.  Luckily, someone had a full bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey.  We went to the home of one of the party and drank the whiskey. All of it.

Politics dominated the discussion that night, and together we found solutions to most of the worlds problems.  The evening finally ended and we all went to sleep.  It was 6:30 AM.  Danny and I woke up the next day around 3:30PM.  Try though we might, we couldn't remember the previous night's brilliance.  It was so hazy, it might as well have been written in Irish.

Leaving Ireland

My bag weighs 15.8 kilos. I don't really know what that is in pounds. I know that because I checked it at the airport to send it (and me) to London.

Leaving Ireland . . . I'm excited to go, but I've had a great time. I've made many friends: Stephanie - the German, Tamara and Marco - the Italians, Frank - the Spaniard - Gil and Claire from France, and Lauren from Holland. I will keep in touch with all of them I hope for quite a while.

Some reflections and memories: A new 60 meter building in the docklands will house e new U2 recording studio. O'Sheas on the corner of Marlborough and " the hostel street" where I met a very drunk Martin and saw several bands, including the one the last night who sold me a CD.

"slaunche a fast" Good luck, good health, and may all of your children have red hair and freckles.

The Dublin spire, also known as the stuffy on the Liffey. James Joyce, or the prick with a stick, and the ever-elusive floozie in a jacuzzi.

Some Dutch: "dank ya/uw vel" "moi ghut, vie nouiken in da kouiken"
Some French: "je chant sur la pluie"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Urban Agriculture

Tomato plants growing in old coolers, herb gardens outside of kitchen windows, and pies made from fruit found around town. This is the world of urban agriculture: a counter-intuitive paring of words with the potential to bring a connection to the land, to the heart of the city.

Cambridge, MA is one city where urban agriculture is catching on. The work of many of these spare time farmers was on display in Harvard Square at the Cambridge Urban Agricultural Fair. From contests to find the best (and ugliest) produce in the city, to pickling and canning demonstrations, to delicious local fare and local music, hundreds of people came out learn, celebrate, and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of the labor of their friends and neighbors.

Urban agriculture is a growing part of the movement for people to get back in touch with the origins of their food. While I couldn't find much hard data on how many people actually participate in urban agriculture, anecdotally, the numbers are surprising.

Having a fair or other public celebration for the efforts of urban agriculturalists can help to reinforce and expand the practice within a community. If you are interested starting an event in your city to celebrate and promote the practice of urban agriculture, it is surprisingly easy to get started.

In talking with the founder of the Cambridge Urban Agriculture Fair, I learned that there were essentially three elements that need to be in place:
  • Get approval from your city or town. This can be achieved through getting a few friends together and talking with someone on the city council to see if they will help you. Most elected representatives will at least point you in the right direction, if not jump at the opportunity to help their constituents.
  • Get some local businesses on board. If there is a local chamber of commerce (even a green chamber of commerce) they will be interested in having a festival that will bring people out, and get exposure for their businesses. Get them on board and they can help to get businesses interested and involved.
  • Make it fun! At the Cambridge fair, a local restaurant called Grendel's Den sponsors a beer garden. Add live music, and a lot of interactive booths and displays and people will come because you are giving them something fun to do.
So if you want something like the Cambridge Urban Agriculture Fair in your town, there is a reason you are reading this blog. Get to work! If you need help, I'll be watching to comments, and I'll be happy to put you in touch with the organizers in Cambridge.

Happy Growing!

Originally posted at

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010


There are some pretty pictures:

ANd this one

ANd this one

Monday, May 31, 2010

Noah's Arkansas the Latest Triumph for Wide Eyed Productions

Originally posted at the Huffington Post

"Time ain't gonna heal your wounds. But it is about the only thing we got can measure how deep ya been hurt."

As a student of theatre in my undergraduate, my professors would wax poetic about the bygone glory days of Broadway. What is was like when Arthur Miller's Plays would debut. They would lament the fact that no new 'real theatre' was coming out of Broadway.

Whether you agree with this criticism or not, is certainly seems that in an age when ticket prices are soaring, and the cost of putting on a show are impossibly high, theatre owners who are willing to take a chance on a new play are few and far between. The result has not been an end of the era of great theatre, you simply have to look a little harder, and a little further from Broadway to find it.

had the pleasure of seeing "Noah's Arkansas," the latest play from Wide Eyed Productions at the Wings theatre. I left convinced that the next generation of great American theatre is about to take center stage.

Wide Eyed Productions' "Noah's Arkansas" by Jarrod Bogard

Enter Wide Eyed Productions. One of a number of scrappy new theatre companies in New York producing some edgy, fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable new theater. Resident playwright Jarrod Bogard, a talented crew of actors, and a superb technical and artistic crew make Wide Eyed Productions a group to keep an eye on.

Jarrod Bogard has delivered a wonderful script in Noah's Arkansas that deftly pulls in its audience and takes them on a journey to a trailer park in small town Arkansas where he leads his audience to take a good hard look at his characters as people. Their grudges, hopes, disappointments, and struggles are at once their own, and portraits of the human experience.

See, you don’t set that hook- and I
mean set her good, fish can swallow that sucker right down in
it’s belly. People do that too, know it? Whatever barbed point
their facin' they just assume swallow whole 'n forget about it.
That way they pretend they aint been caught.

The characters in "Noah's Arkansas" are deftly brought to life under the superb direction of Neil Fennell. His cast of actors give nuanced, natural performances that wrap the audience in from the first line. The coy, lighting-fast, banter between Lizzy (the charming and very funny Kristin Hoffman) and Wayne (the powerful Justin Ness) sets the pace for the rest of the evening.

The set (Joshua David Bishop), costumes (Antonia Ford Roberts), Lighting (Ryan Metzler), and sound (Trevor Dallier) are first rate, and believably create the world of "Noah's Arkansas". Add to this an original score (Michael Sorrentino) and you have an Arkansas trailer park on Christopher Street.

"Noah's Arkansas" is an honest look at dysfunction. We all went to high school with characters like slimy, dimwitted, power hungry Tom (Bennett W. Harrell's excellent performance triumphs over the easy caricature and added an element of a little boy playing dress up that made Tom sympathetically human). The awkwardness of growing up different is on full display with Michael Komala's stewardship of the character Micheal from a skiddish, rueful, victim, to a young man at peace with the tempest of life.

Perhaps my favorite scene in "Noah's Arkansas" is the last one. Bogard has written one of the most challenging scenes I have seen on stage. It is the straight theatre version of the musical theatre device of laying multiple melodies - each with their own lyrics on top of each other for the audience to sort out (or buy the CD to decipher). The scene is the dramatic climax of the show and it is so densely packed it creates the chaos of a family fight. Bogard brilliantly uses this scene to deliver some of his best lines (including the two I have included here). The effect is to have the audience combat the urge to disengage from the shouting, instead straining to make sense of it all as Lester (played by the expert Erik Frandsen) softly delivers a speech heavy with the weight of his life's experience.

"Noah's Arkansas" ends with Tammy's assertion (Judy Merrick surprises the audience with her power and depth after appearing to be a mostly non-speaking role up to that point) that ". . . everything is in order here". The astute viewer will note that the opening line of the play was "There is no order here".

Bogard believes in simplicity in his story lines and in essence, Noah's Arkansas has all the significance and complexity of the transition from no order to order. Yet, his characters bring great significance, and emotion to what is on the surface, simple. In that, Bogard, the cast and crew, and everyone involved with Wide Eyed Productions have achieved what theater is meant to achieve. "Noah's Arkansas" provides us with a mirror for examining the great significance and emotion we bring to the simple story we call being human.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Live Broadcasting by Ustream

Monday, February 22, 2010


A quick digest of the week's social media news with a side of fun? You're welcome.

Introducing CRUSH, the weekly web-show that takes the news on the social media newsladder and crushes it down to reveal the gems.

In this weeks' edition, we discuss the coincidence of Google releasing Buzz at about the same time they struck a deal with the NSA to share info. No relationship - just like Glenn Beck getting a show on Fox the day before Obama was inaugurated.

Facebook, meanwhile made changes to its privacy settings allowing users more control of what info is shared. That won't help people who choose to share their info though. With the growth of location sharing, there is a new website that points out a nagging issue with letting people know where you are all the time.

On the political side of thigs, this past week marked the one year anniversary of the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Organizing for America released this video to mark the occasion, and the House Committee on Education and Labor realeased a great video as well. This is not the first time the Ed and Labor committee has turned to creative webvideos to spread a message, and we hope it will not be the last.

Sarah Palin was asked what she thought the biggest threat to America is, and when her supporters shouted 'Obama' she felt the need to clarify that they had said it, not she. She didn't correct them though. If Mrs. Palin cared about 'those little facty things' she and her supporters might want to thumb through the Quadrennial Defense Review, which catalougues the various security threats to the nation as determined by, well, the people who spend their careers assessing threats to our nation.

Need a job?

Finally, this is from Ben Whitehair on Facebook, and it is hilarious:
5 steps to an AWESOME day: Step 1: Go to google maps... Step 2: Search for 39 Rugdeveien, Bergen, Hordaland, Norge Step 3: Zoom in until you get to street view Step 4: Look to the left of the truck and see two men in scooba gear Step 5: Click to make the truck go down the road and watch the men chase the truck....

Remember to post to the Social Media Newsladder, and subscribe to CRUSH on Youtube here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An Irish Breakfast

An Irish breakfast is basically simple.  Toast, bacon, eggs, sausage, tomato and orange juice, preceded by cereal and followed by tea.  Its the size of it that makes it remarkable. 4 slices of toast, 2 eggs any way you like, two sausage links, a full tomato (cut into quaters), and what must be a full pig's worth of thick sliced bacon.  I never hear the death oink and snort from the kitchen, but every time I have an Irish breakfast, there on my plate (minus hooves and head of course) is basically a full pig.

Such was my breakfast before rushing off to catch the impatient ferry back to the Irish mainland.  As I opened the front door, I was hit with a gust of wind going at least 40 mph!  Gale winds are at least 60 mph.  I looked out at the sea which was choppy to say the least.  I remembered one of the crew on the way over informing me that the ferry will sail in wind or in swell but not both.  He noticed me getting a bit sick on the way out and teased me a bout being from Colorado.

This same sailor was there to greet me as the ferry arrived.  He was holding a mop and wearing a stern expression. I jovially referred to the previous day's conversation asking "no swell today?" referencing the strong wind.  He wet his mop saying "no, bigger swell today."  He turned and mutterd what sounded like "you're in trouble," but I couldn't be sure.  Before I could ask him to repeat, my focus shirfted to the islanders returning home.  They were pale and moved slowly from the boat to the land.

I boarded and was about to put my things down when I noticed what the mop was for.  Puke.  Several of the islanders had succumbed to seasickness an their journey over.  The Irish breakfast rumbled in my stomach.  If islanders - people who were on boats on a regular basis couldn't handle it, I was in trouble.

Freash air is supposed to be the key to staving off seasickness, so out onto the deck I went - Ipod in hand.  We left the calm harbor and steamedinto and Irish Atlantic whipped into a frensy by winds agitating an already formidable swell.

The ferry that travels to Tory Island is probably 100 feet from bow to stern, 40 feet from side to side and generously about 30 feet tall.  It is safe to say that the waves were almost as big.  I began the voyage at the stern - legs spread, knees bent, death-grip on something solid. I did my best to adjust to the pitch and roll of the ship so my stomach wouldn't notice any movement at all.

It was working. We would climb a wave, I would lean forward. We came down the other side, I leaned back. Wave to port, lean left.  Wave to starboard, lean right. Soon there was something new. Two waves came at us in rapid succession. We crest the first and slammed into the second.  The result was a spray of water twice as high as the ship.  Like a pro volley-ball player, as the spray peaked, the wind delighted in spiking it into the faces of the awestruck passengers below.

Several more of these and I was soaked through and freezing. It was time to make a choice: inside to puke, or outside to freeze to death. My travel spirit kicked in: I can puke inside anywhere, but I can only freeze to death from exposure to the frosty North Atlantic here.

Have you heard the phrase "If you go in hard, you won't get hurt?" I never reall knew what it meant, but out of no where, it jumped into my head and I got it loud and clear.  I pulled out my iPod and traded soft instrumental for Rusted Root, Guns and Roses and, so as not to totally lose the flavor of it, some Irish sea chanties!

I turned up the volume and headed for the top deck at the bow of the ship.  Midway up the steps, a huge wave hit starboard and the ship pitched 45 degrees to port.  My feet slipped and adrenalin surged.  Beneath me was no longer the nice, hard deck, but now the rolling white-capped entrance to Davie Jones' locker.  But my grip held, and as the ship righted itself, so did my feet and I scrambled the rest of the way up the steps.

Now the top of the ship, much like a metronome, pitched far more wildly than the bottom, the wind blew harder, and the spray was more frequent, but it didn't matter.  Like the hurricane scene in Forrest Gump, I half sang, half shouted into the wind:

"So have another drink boys,
oh have one with me.
We're home from the sea,
yes we're back on the shore,
(pause to spit our sea water)
 and if you get to drink boys,
 in this company . . ."

On I went.  The ship rolled, the wind blew, the waves crashed, and all to no avail.  When we readed the bay, the water calmed and I came down - dripping wet, shivering, and still humming through a beaming smile.  My sailor friend stopped mid-sentence when he was going to ask me how I did, and said instead, "What got into you?"  I replied, as I stepped off the ship, "Oh, nothing.  Just a good Irish breakfast."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tory Island

There are no bank machines on Tory Island. There are no cows, sheep, video stores, laundrys, or boats really. There is one pub that opens at half eight. There is one store that is open sporatically throughout the day. In winter, there is one room in town to rent (the one I am in).

I'm not sure what people do here. There are jobs at the pier, but only the ferry comes and only five times pre week. It comes, is unloaded, and is gone in the space of 30 minutes. I'm sure two or three people run the lighthouse, and two or three more run the store and the pub - but there are 300 or so people who live her rear round. What do they do? Fish?

I walked all the way around the island today: no boats. At three miles wide and 1/2 mile wide, I covered the whole thing in just three hours. There is no farming, no auto repair. They must rely on the tourist season.

Rumor has it that in the winter the whole town goes to the pub. Unfortunately, I couldn't go tonight. The room (and two meals) is costing me €38. That, added to a €22 return ferry ticket exactly exhausts the cash I have here. Well, all but about c.84 - not enough for coffee.

Having been wet outside and cold inside, my house hosts keep a closed door between me and them with the strict exception of when they are serving me food. So with no hope for conversation there, and not a Euro to spare, I rallied my spirits to brave the unrelenting rain for a midnight walk.

Outside I went where I quickly realized that the sogginess of the ground would make my walk a bit more of a trudge, and clouds that seemed a mile thick dashed my hopes for moonlight. In fact, as I truged away from the town, headed for the pier on the SE point of the island, the only lights to be seen were the far-off lights of Northern Ireland (accross three miles of water) and the relaxed, rythmic flash of the lighthouse on the other end of the island.

Upon reaching the pier, I was thourally soaked, but oddly warm. I stood watching the tide come in. Somehow the vast blackness of the water seemed very inviting like the emergency exit lever in the back of an airplane when your bladder is about to burst waiting in the que for the toilet.

As I was starting to seriously consider whether I could survive a cliff dive and a three mile swim, I snapped out of my transe and I started to trudge back to town. The night had become foggy and I was now walking toward the lighthouse. It began to facinate me. First off, because of the fog I could see its beam for the entirety of its slow circle. Oddly, I write 'slow.' I suppose it did seem slow for its entire revolution except the instant it shone on me. Then it seemed to fly by extreemly fast. Staring at the liight, my mind began to wander and I soon found myself making light saber noises whenever the beam passed me. The notion that the lighthouse and I were engaged in combat prevaded my thoughts.

It seemed we were each showing our stuff in an effort to intimidate the other. Hand signals changed to strange faces which evolved into full-body flailing in an effort not to be outdone by my rotating opponent.

As I was jumping about, I noticed another light - this one behind me. Another lighthouse come to join the frey? Had my opponent called for backup? I was ready for anything. I was jsut about to launch a sneak attack on this newcomer light when a thick Irish accent called out asking if I needed ride. I sheepishly ceased my attack preparations and thanks the driver for his kindness but declined. The bewildered driver nodded, rolled up his window and drove on.

Back in my head, I declared victory as the other lights ran away down the road in front of me. Like a combatant in a dojo, I bowed to my enemy and truged back into town. I'm not sure, but I think I may have gotten a taste of what people do here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010