Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Ireland 2003

May 2, 2003

Naughtiness takes many forms and shapes.  This year, it came to me as a trip to Hungary, the Czech Republic and Ireland.  I typically pursue these travels alone but my Peruvian-American friend Rob Barrientos made his desire to join me known with the gentleness of a sandstorm.  I gave in and soon the day of departure was upon us.

In all of her graciousness, our dear friend Erin picked Rob and I up at my home in West Roxbury.  The three of us then drove to the airport.  On the way, Erin pulled out a red and blue paper bag.  The blue bag was for me and the red bag was for Rob.  The contents of each bag were the same except that Rob had Reese’s Peanut Butter Bites while I had Kit Kat Bites.  I’m not sure of the message that Erin meant to send with this but I’m sure it was a pleasant one.

We said goodbye and thank you to this fine lady and stood in the British Airways line where I was checked out several times by a gay Englishman.  I did not realize this was the case until Rob brought this to my attention.  Left to my own devices, I would have thought that he was nonsexually admiring the creative way I combined my casual black wool blazer and corduroy pants.

After passing through security, Rob and I lost ourselves in two of the most delicious pints of Sam Adams.  Our escape was so delightful that it had to be broken by our names being called out on the airport intercom.  We rushed to the gate where a somewhat sour British Airways lady let us know that “we were waiting for you!”  Complete with manly giggles, we found our seats and enjoyed the flight.

The flight itself was fine but I did face one challenge.  As I waited in line for the bathroom, a woman near me absolutely fouled the air with her ways and I was left to suffer in an awkward silence.  The beauty of it was that she simply moved three feet to the right after her initial release.  “Ha ha!  He’ll never know it was I!  How can I be to blame for this stench if I move a whopping three feet away from the origin of this sin?”

May 3, 2003

The plane touched down in London and we caught a connecting flight to Budapest.  Once there, we grabbed our bags, secured our rental car, realized there were a lot of hot women in this country and drove to the hotel.  At the hotel, we went to our room where we discovered that there was only one bed.  In so many words, I made it clear to the management that I had no intention of sharing a bed with a man.  His reply was “but it is such a big bed.”  I didn’t care if the bed was bigger than a parking lot. If it were mine, there would be no other man found within its limits.

The front desk then saw it fit to give us another room.  Excluding the bathroom, the first level of our new room was 18 feet wide and 40 feet long.  At the far end, half the room opened up with a 20-foot ceiling and a balcony that gave us views of Gellert-hegy Park and the Danube River.  A small stairway brought you up to a second level that had its own bathroom and looked out onto the living room downstairs.  The room was huge and they gave it to us for the same price as the “Maybe You Should Be Gay Room”.

Rob and I then left the hotel and climbed to the top of Gellert-hegy where we had decadent views of the Danube and Budapest itself.  Afterwards, we readied ourselves for the night.  On the way out, we asked for the doorman’s suggestion of a restaurant.  Upon agreeing on his selection, we decided to walk as our instincts told us it was about one kilometer away.  The doorman tried to convince us that it was over a four hilly kilometers away and that the hiring of one of the taxis before us was essential.  While we walked the absurdly flat one kilometer to our destination, we tried to calculate the commissions this yo-yo made off telling tourists that they needed taxis whether they were going to the airport or to the bathroom.

At our restaurant, we enjoyed the sounds of some traditional Hungarian – Gypsy music and some “knuckled pork” with potatoes.  Our traditional fare had the appearance of a cooked debacle.  We then walked around, searching but not finding some kind of definable nightlife.  All we found were men in nice suits trying to lure us into their naughty clubs where our fragile morals would be crushed mercilessly.  After a quick beer, we walked back to the hotel where we ate Reese’s Peanut Butter and Kit Kat Bites in our palace.  This lead into a nice sleep.

May 4, 2003

We awoke and walked down to the hotel restaurant to enjoy our free buffet.  Rob and I then drove up to a small town 19 km north of the city named Szentendre.  Full of that charming European village stuff, we walked carelessly among its corridors.  While we were in the main square listening to a violinist and guitarist, Rob then questioned me for the name of the song they were playing.  A man sitting next to me on the bench than said “Besame Mucho”.  I pretended to care and Rob did the same but did a much better job at it.  We ended up talking at length with this man whose name was Nikos or Nicholas.  He was a tourist and fancied himself a Greek citizen.  This man was pure Europe or as I like to say, Purope.  No matter what we told him of our travel plans, it was clear he would find fault with everything we said.  When we told him we planned to spend only 2 1/2 days in Budapest, he nearly had a meltdown.

“You Americans!  How can you get to know a place?!  You try to see everything in such a short time!”

I replied, “Yah and we can also bomb your country so bad it will look like the moon so shut your mouth!”

For all his constipated tendencies, we enjoyed our talk with Nikos.  I told him he would appear in this journal and that hopefully, I would find some nice things to say about him.

He laughed and said; “I will never see this journal so say what you want.”

Well Nike, here’s to you, you disagreeable bastard!  Need I tell you all that I am being fresh and truthfully I like this man?  I hope this journal is published some day so he can convince every member of his probably huge Greek family to buy a copy.

We said goodbye to Nikos and Rob took me to a shop where he asked my opinion on what to buy his lady friend Carmen.  Rob said he narrowed it down to a dagger in a sheath and a very clever small, wooden box for jewelry and the like.  I will never know to this day what made Rob think a woman would ever want a dagger as a gift unless she was married to Judas.  He defended his choice by saying that Carmen wanted something funky.

I told Rob he should look into something less menacing and more Hungarian.  Rob looked at the dagger one more time and then at the shop owner and asked him, “Is this authentic Hungarian?”

The man hesitated, pointed out some crappy engravings of horses on the sheath and said, “Oh yes.  You see?  Look at the horses?”

I tried to not burst out into a laughing fit and convinced Rob to opt for the box.  I left the shop with the new comfort of knowing that anything with a horse on it means it is of Hungarian origin. Examples of authentic Hungarian objects:

We went back to the hotel and prepared ourselves for the evening.   Our stomachs led us to Rivaldo, located in the Castle District.  The meal?  Lovely.  To ensure proper digestion, we walked around the remainder of the district.  After a quick dessert at a café that played great songs of the 1980’s, we went back to the hotel.

May 5, 2003

This morning also began with a free breakfast.  Rob and I then traveled to the city center and walked up Andrassy Street to Hero’s Square.  I stopped to rest on the steps of the Jewish Memorial as Rob sprang into action with his camera like Jimmy Olsen from the Daily Planet.  I looked across the large plaza and I saw Rob yucking it up with one of the lady natives.  If it had been just a little hotter out, Rob may have been able to inadvertently charm the pants off this nice young woman.

The two of us walked into the park behind the plaza and over to one of Budapest’s finest restaurant, Gundel, for a lovely lunch on their outside courtyard.  Our immediate surroundings boasted of flowers and canopies.  If one did not realize the alarmingly close proximity of the city zoo, a subtle shock may ensue.  Nothing enhances the atmosphere of a five-star meal like the sounds of an enraged Silver Back ape screaming for more bananas in his own tongue.

After paying the bill, we headed back to the hotel and eventually to the pool.  The pool, by the way, turns into a wave pool every 30 minutes or so.  If you could have seen this top of the line, old-world hotel that we stayed in, you immediately understood how out of place a wave pool was.  It made about as much sense as putting Bill Clinton’s morals into a nun.  If that doesn’t work for you, imagine the terrible combination of our previous day’s friend Nikos and a good time: “What?!  Why are we having a good time?  I need something to complain about and spit on!  Quick, someone give me a hotdog, a picture of a golden retriever and some capitalism.”

Rob and I decided to sample some of the renowned “mineral baths” that our hotel had to offer.  To enter the mineral bath area, you had to ring a bell at a locked door.  We did so and were greeted by a large, round and grim Hungarian.  Although Rob and I had our bathing suits on, we were plagued with the sights of strange men walking around the place with what the hotel called “decency cloths”.  Folks, I tell you now that these cloths were about as decent as muddy sluts.  They only provided our eyes the small mercy of covering one side while it exposed the lesser of two evils.  A quick glance around and an unwilling whiff of the air made one wonder if they pumped the patrons into the baths via a sewage pipe from some unspeakable location.  I think I will boil my body in alcohol and seek professional help to disinfect my memories.

We removed ourselves from this dangerous scene and went back to the relative safety of our room.  The two of us then enjoyed a nice dinner at a blues bar by the name of Fat Mo’s.  This was not followed by dessert but rather some conservative yet pleasant conversation with a young couple from Texas.  Of course I forget the man’s name and all I can remember of the somewhat cute woman’s name is that her name kind of sounded like the word “laundry”…if you removed the letter “d” and “r”.  Good night.

May 6, 2003

Today we enjoyed our last free breakfast at Hotel Gellert.  Rob and I packed our things and began driving.  From Budapest, we drove northwest into Slovakia.  At the border, I went into a building there to purchase a motor pass needed to use the motorways in Slovakia.  But as the building was full of smelly Hungarian and Slovakian truck drivers, I decided to take my chances with the Slovakian law dogs.  Fortunately, I have no incidents to report that resulted from my Dukes of Hazard disdain for the Slovakian fuzz.

Once in the Czech Republic, we headed towards Prague.  One precious thing our eyes beheld was a highway worker helping another guy fix some sort of machine in a Speedo.  His coworkers were all clothed normally but this guy had a Speedo on and a white T-shirt.  It was as if the Czech government kidnapped some poor sap of the French Riviera and stuck him into some Czech labor camp.  To further embarrass him, they forced him to remain in his Speedo.

“That’s right Speedy, you will work on the motorway in your Speedo so the whole of the Czech Republic can drive by and scoff at your foul taste in swimwear.  Ohh, but you probably like that, don’t you Speedy?  That’s why you wear that disgusting little thing in the first place.  Get back to work!”

Eventually we made it to our destination for the evening, Kutna Hora.  This is a small town located 70 km east of Prague.  As afternoon turned to evening, we went to a restaurant that supplied us with a nice view.  After filling our stomachs with joy, we walked around the small streets and enjoyed Kutna Hora’s humble delights.  Beers were purchased at some sort of drinkery and were followed by sleep.

The fact this piece of furniture could not decide if it wanted to be a closet or a bureau near drove me to lunacy.

May 7, 2003

Breakfast was secured and a checkout was executed.  Rob and I then walked around Kutna Hora and visited the Gardens and the Cathedral of St. Barbara, a massive church that began construction in 1547 and took a few hundred years to complete.  Another thing we noticed all about the town were art students drawing and painting various views of the town.  I had to dig down deep to resist the urge to rip my shirt off, stand two feet from the artist and scream like some urban tough American man, “Hey baby, I bet your instructor didn’t teach you about these massive American guns!  You better ask your skinny friend to draw the other one.  I don’t think the both of them can fit on one page!  Yah!!”

We then bordered our machine, drove into Prague and landed at our Hotel Belvedere.  Once in the city, we entered our hotel and grabbed some food.  Afterwards, Rob and I showered and hit the older part of Prague.  On the way out we spoke briefly with the three lady receptionists.  Once outside, I noticed a small piece of toilet paper on Rob’s lip.  I brought it to his attention and he told me he was tending to a minor cut and forgot to remove it.  I told him that was great and that those three nice ladies must think odd things of us.

“Strange boys those Americans be.  I will call the Peruvian one ‘toilet lips’.  His erroneous use of bathroom-finishing paper will bring me humble enjoyment for the next 42 minutes.  Ha…ha…ha”

Because of this event, Rob added a new name to his list of names I have for him.  His new name is Bobby Lipmaker.

While we continued the rest of our journey on the number 26 tram, I began to notice something with a part of the population here.  If you were to look at a photograph of only a Czech Republic native’s head, you would think that they were absolutely huge.  But when you see the rest of them, you realize that they are not as huge as you originally thought and in many cases, they end up being hot or attractive.  So I think that’s great.

Another thing I am noticing is that my intimate knowledge of meters I have developed through my time with the Greater Boston Track Club has proven quite useful.  It’s all about meters in Europe.  “What’s that Mr. Pilsner Urquell?  Your tavern is 800 meters from my hotel?  Please begin to pour my beer, I’ll be there in 2:01.7.”

Once in the old town, we strolled carelessly in its midst.  We ate a nice meal on the banks of the Vltava River, at the foot of the Charles Bridge.  From there, we lit our Cuban cigars and headed east into the Staromestske plaza and up into the old Jewish quarters of Josefov.  Back at the hotel, we wrote postcards, made fun of bad foreign television and said goodnight.

May 8, 2003

Rob and I tackled the breakfast room in fine style this morning.  We then quickly readied ourselves and took the tram into the heart of the city.  A brisk walk brought us into Staromestske plaza again where we met our tour guide Jana.  As we walked, Rob and I met two nice women from Portland, Maine and New York.  Although their names escape me, the memory of their friendliness does not.

I then went up to the woman from Maine and said, “Hey, did you realize that your state is big, cold and boring?”  No I didn’t.  I love Maine actually.  Once, I was up in Maine and swam in a big lake.  It was so cool.

The other woman was from Hingham, Massachusetts originally.  Whenever our tour got slow, I just wanted to go up to her and say, “That’s so awesome that Clint Eastwood named one of his westerns after your high school, A Fistful of Dollars High.”

And then I would have started laughing viciously and said, “Oh no, wait baby, I meant Hang’em High, like Hingham High!  Ha!  I mean, who would name a high school A Fistful of Dollars High?  I would maybe name a high school Highlander High because Sean Connery and that guy Chris Lambert with that ‘from nowhere’ accent were in that movie.  I mean, baby, think how crazy it would be to have the word ‘high’ in the actual name of a high school.  The really cool kids could say ‘Hi, I’m from High High’ and like, cool dudes could call themselves High High Guys and the cafeteria ladies could make High High Fries.  Hey, I bet you they don’t have snowball fights in Panama…”

In any event, our tour guide Jana brought us through the Prague Castle area and let us on our way.  Rob and I worked our way back down to the river and over the Charles Bridge where we secured lunch at the Summer Garden.  After enjoying some lunch and jazz, we made it back to the hotel.

This is what I look like most of the time when I write my travel journals.

Rob and I cleaned up and napped.  Refreshed and full of vigor, we headed to the main square for our next tour, a pub tour.  It was great.  Besides meeting two lovely sisters by the name of Jacqui and Cari (the first of which had just finished a semester abroad at Maynooth College outside of Dublin), we also had the distinct honor of dining and drinking with two Czechs and a Bulgarian.

The first Czech worked for the tour company and her name was Katrina.  Full of sass this one was.  Her greatest talent was to tell Bobby to “shut up” when he started to become fresh.  By her side was her friend since kindergarten, Lenka.  A stern yet sweet creation, she was more reserved then her robust counterpart.  Leading it all off was Katrina’s boyfriend Jason from Bulgaria.  He was the official guide and looked like Jeff Spicoli.  His persona was like a long, hot day or a report card with 5 C’s and a B.  The pinnacle of Jason’s abilities became clear as we walked over the Charles Bridge.  Upon seeing lightning in the sky, he proclaimed in his Bulgarian accent, “Look everyone, there is a disco in the sky.  The gods are dancing tonight.”  The idea of it struck me so that I wish I had thought of it.

A little later, the party broke down and Jacqui, Cari, Rob and I caught one last drink in the square.  We then said our good-byes and walked home.  On the way, Rob and I got caught in a downpour.  We found shelter underneath a large overhang of a building.  Had I the chance, I think I would have written in a more romantic partner for the role of “the person I get caught in the rain with”.

May 9, 2003

This morning, I awoke to a Bobby that was already in action and out of the hotel room.  Because of this, I secured breakfast by myself and met up with Bobby Lipmaker after.  Our next move was to take the # 12 tram to the base of Petrin Hill.  Once there, we made the challenging climb to the top, only to leisurely descend down into the area below Prague Castle.  It was at these shops that we hustled like disco dancers for delightful pieces for our loved ones.  The meandering continued to the Jewish Quarter for a meal.  We then went our separate ways as Rob continued shopping and I walked back to the hotel.

We eventually met up and headed back out to the city center where we decided to meet up with the same tour guide company for a ghost tour.  On the way, a mighty downpour greeted us and again, the Czech lovelies known to us now as Lenka and Katrina greeted us.  Due to the heavy rain, the ghost tour was cancelled so the four of us, along with our new Finnish friend Riikka, went to a bar named La Fabrique.  Perhaps it was due to the strange 160-proof Czech alcohol she had the previous evening, but Katrina’s sass was slightly less.  Only one serving she had but after tasting it myself, I simply called it “petrol” (Using the word “petrol” instead of “gas” also concerns me.  Few things annoy the human spirit worse than a person travelling to Europe for a couple of weeks and adopting all of its subtle linguistic differences.  This puts me into the class whose members include anyone that whistles in the morning, people that smell and a rash.)

Lenka assumed the role of the quieter yet steady social performer.  It was tender to see her laugh and enjoy her good friend Katrina.  When it was time to for them to go, we exchanged emails and good-byes.  Riikka remained with Rob and I.  We managed to pull off a relaxing conversation that dealt with the politics and culture of Scandinavia and America.  The night drew to a close and Rob and I headed back after walking Riikka to her tram stop.

May 10, 2003

Dr. Bobby the Lipmaker and I unwillingly removed ourselves from bed and ate breakfast.  We wrapped up some final business at the hotel and drove to the airport.  Our next stop was Limerick, Ireland where we would stay one night with my friends, the Whites.  The origins of my connection to the Whites can easily be found in my tenure at Boston College where as a junior, I lived with their son Dara.

Once in Ireland, Rob and I picked up our rental car and so began the oddity of driving on the left side of the road.  Forty-five minutes later, we pulled into the Whites house that is literally feet away from the Shannon River.  The house and area around it are the stuff of high-end tea commercials.  Our hosts, Rosemary and Christy, have the friendliness of pub owners and the manners of nobility.

Rosemary showed us to our rooms and the two of us proceeded to wash off two layers of aviational scum from our bodies.  Soon we found ourselves savoring a meal of well-prepared vegetables and potatoes, lamb seasoned with fresh garlic and rosemary and one of the red wines we brought for the Whites at the airport.  For those of you that make it so, please try the 1999 Long Mountain Cabernet from West Cape, South Africa.  I ain’t one of them wine sissies but this particular wine spoke to me.  Now I want it to speak to you.

As we dined, Christy told us one great story about his airplane sales profession.  One of his clients refused to make the payments for their large jet so a court order was put in place that allowed the plane to be legally retrieved by Christy’s company.  When they went to repossess the plane, they found a wheel missing and Doberman Pinchers in and around the plane.  Some people are dumber than dirt and old sticks.  One would think that a company that is wealthy enough to own jet planes also has the means to countering such second-rate diabolics.  All you’re looking at is a new wheel and depending on your mood, a 10-lb. bag of Alpo or some mustard gas.  Maybe I’ll give this strategy a try sometime.  If I ever find out my car will be repossessed, I’ll knife my own tire and put a Great White shark in the driver’s seat.

After dessert, Rosemary, Christy, Rob and I walked down to one of the local pubs.  On the way, we passed by some old remains of a castle on a small cliff that was the site of a battle in the 1600’s.  Only two walls remained of Castle Connell but it was enough for my friend Dara and his sister to climb upon with great mischief after a pub run one evening.  Once in the pub, I immediately terminated a four-year, seven-month wait for true Guinness.  I was tempted to drink so much of this black magic woman that I would forget my real life and lose myself in the bosom of Irelands rigorous supply of this beer.  At the pub, we conversed with the White’s neighbors and later returned home.

May 11, 2003

This morning we were victims of a high-powered Irish breakfast by the hands of Rosemary White.  As Christy had gone golfing, Rob and said our good-byes to Rosemary, the four cats and one dog.  We packed the car and began the 61/2-hour trip to Glencolumbcille in Donegal County.  On the way, we passed by Galway, Sligo and the city of Donegal.  As we drew near to Glencolumbcille, the roads shrank to the width of a necktie and the presence of sheep in the middle of the road became commonplace.

When we reached the Glencolumbcille Hotel, we checked into our rooms, soaked up the tremendous, ocean-side views and ate dinner at a nearby restaurant.  After a well-built Guinness for myself and a hot whiskey for Mr. Bobby, we called it a night.

May 12, 2003

Rob and I woke up and hit the breakfast room.  We paid the bill and drove out to the cliffs of Bunglas where we received a schooling in visual drama.  The sea cliffs are the largest in Europe and as everywhere else in Ireland, were home to countless sheep.  Rob and I then climbed all around the mountainous terrain.  Rob walked back and I opted to climb high to the “one-man pass” like some macho thing of a man.  I got excited when I read the name of this path and how it was not for the faint-hearted.  Part of me, however, was a little nervous.  I began to also wonder about the possibility of there being one man high up the mountain that would make a pass at you if you drew too near.

Fortunately, no such reality existed and I achieved views that would challenge the eyes of pilots.  As I looked out, I could see the parking lot far off in the distance and the winding road that went around the base of this mountain that led to it.  I decided to walk straight towards the parking lot even though it led me through a steep, shrubby mountainside.  Mind you, I wore my casual wool blazer and corduroy pants so the experience felt quite hobbitish.  Rob and I eventually met back at the car and moved out of Donegal.

Like I said, hobbit-ish.

After looking at a map the previous night, I decided to search out my familial roots in Leitrum County.  This county was home to both of my mother’s parents.  I remembered two names from my mother: Dromahair and Kilavoggy.  I went into a bar and started throwing around my grandmother’s maiden name, O’Brien, with the locals.  Coming to my aid was a man that would be best suited to master the toothless smile.  Every time this nice man laughed, it was like looking at Stonehenge through yellow sunglasses.  We continued to talk to him and I soon realized that I needed to speak with my mother.  My mother told me that her mother lived in Kilavoggy and Dromahair was part of the address since it was the larger, nearby village

Before I got off the phone, I spoke with my father.  He than asked how the trip was going and then of Rob.

“Chris, tell Rob he has many of the good Irish qualities.  By the way, what is Rob anyways?”

“He’s Peruvian so he’s got some native in him and on his mother’s side, he’s got some French and Spanish as well.”

“Huh,” he said, “that sounds like a good omelet.”

Rob and I laughed at this for a long time.  After the laughter eventually abated, we drove the 8 kilometers to Killavoggy.  The small, yard sale styled signs made this place hard to find.  When we finally did so, it was no more than a church and a small patch of grass at a crossroads that had some forgotten items and a handwritten sign like the others that said “Killavoggy”.  I took a few photos, briefly lost myself in old thought and headed to Westport.

The “town square” of Killavoggy: grass and literally a pile of boards with one board on top that is hard to read but says “Killavoggy”. Perhaps a rare occasion of when an accidental finger in a photo is more interesting than the photo itself.

Once in Westport, we checked into the Wyatt Hotel and ate dinner.  Rob and I then went to the hotel bar where we smoked another round of Cuban cigars.

May 13, 2003

We ate, paid the bill and walked through the small, picturesque town of Westport.  After some light shopping, we were back on the road south towards Clifden.  On the way, we passed through lands that were bleak and beautiful.  Smooth, old mountains stood around quietly with loughs at their feet.  A little further we entered Clifden, which provided us with lunch and gifts for the little nibblets (my nieces and nephews).

Further on we battled through tiny, fairy-tale roads that were not wide enough for two cars to pass each other.  Eventually, we made it to the city of Galway.  I showed Rob the student village that was my home for the five months I studied at University College Galway.

Through some fatigue and frustration, we settled into a bed and breakfast hosted by a nice 82-year old lady named Mary Robinson.  She was only a little bigger than a potato but full of sweetness.  Rob and I then made our way into town where we endured a slightly sub-standard meal at an Italian restaurant.  Our evening experience was redeemed with a pint of Guinness coupled with Irish music and dancing at Monroe’s Tavern.  The effects of the long day’s travel had their way with us so we decided to turn in.

May 14, 2003

The two of us met in the small dining area where Mary greeted us with a table full of food whose entire volume was greater than that of the guests themselves.  Her hands made most of the items present and a complete description of their ways was given to us.  We then thanked her for her hospitality and moved on to the Jury’s Inn in town.

Rob and I walked around town and I showed him a few of my old haunts, including the university.  I also took him to the sports center where we ran into one of the men that worked the desk when I was there.  This man’s name is Gay and I will now avoid the urge to openly reflect on why a parent would name their child with this name.  With the reasons of his name aside, I must say that Gay is a great man and it was lovely to see him recognize me without my introduction.  I asked about the other men that worked with him.  One I made special mention of was Martin who was a great racquetball player in his youth.  I used to challenge him now and again and was always frustrated that he always wailed on me even though he had a limp and wore a sweater, shoes and slacks when we played.

Shortly after, I carried on to some fields up the Corrib River where I wrote for a while and Rob went to search out some distant relatives.  With a name like Rob Barrientos, it is clear to see that this statement is pure folly.  This would be like Kermit the Frog looking for his ancestral peeps on the Planet of the Apes.  In all actuality, Rob went to meet with the parents of an Irish girl he knew over 20 years ago.

Back at the hotel, we went for a meal at MacSwiggans and then to the Quays for some digestive entertainment.  We ended up talking to a couple of American guys named John and Vic that were from Chicago.  While we talked to them, two Irish men worked their way into the conversation.  One was Joe.  Other than the fact that every woman in his midst felt his hands upon them during the night, all I can say is that my strategy with him became one of avoidance when he began to tenaciously scold me for not being drunk enough or not staying out late enough.

The other lad was Paul.  Paul’s look can best be described as a confederate soldier in a civil war reenactment series.  It’s not like he had a three-foot beard or mysterious teeth.  It was his face.  It whistled Dixie to me.  And I was not the only one that heard it.  John, who was hammered by this stage, looked at Paul and asked him where he was from.  After Paul answered “Galway”, John turned to the rest of us and said, “Hey guys, Paul here is from Mobile, Ireland like Mobile, Alabama!”

We all wanted to believe it.  We all sought the solace in knowing that a face and head like that could only come from a place with the word “Mobile” in its title.  But we knew it was not true.

The other strange thing about Paul was an incident that occurred while we spoke.  I opened my mouth halfway to say something.  At that exact moment, Paul said something with so much force that he launched a brilliant pod of saliva right onto my tongue.  It was bizarre.  The thing I hate most of this memory is that I remember a distinct taste.  It seemed like Paul had eaten a bag of sugar.  This southern-looking, musket man made me taste him.  I don’t know what else to say about this.

May 15, 2003

After eating breakfast, we drove out to Rossaveal to board a ferry that would take us to the smallest of the Aran Islands, Inisheer.  Upon setting foot on the island, it was apparent that walking the island would be challenging.  The weather left us with a wind and light rain to deal with.  Therefore, the Bobby machine made his way to the local pub and I summoned the mighty manly powers of my vast store of chest hair to confront two hours of nasty elements.  It was a day of beards.  It was a day of gnarly sea captains.  But I somehow managed to enjoy myself on this island full of countless rocks and walls.  This 4-mile square island had not a tree on it and left nowhere for meager creatures to hide from the wind.  The place looked as if people from around the world have been mailing their rocks here for 100 years.  If I could eat rocks, I would probably live here.

I eventually made it back to the small village and joined Rob by the fire for food and beer.  As we unwound, a strange woman with flip flops, wild hair and a two-inch, 20-hair count goatee sat next to us but said nothing.  Call me a bastard but as I was enjoying my soup and my eyes landed upon that strange tuft of hairs that grew out of her chin at the oddest of angles, I nearly extinguished the fire with my own vomit.  Her look and mannerisms needs to be compared to a chunkier version of the creepy, crawly sorceress from Robin Hood Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner.

In any event, Rob went out for a walk himself and we made the trip back to the hotel.  We then had a fine seafood meal at McDonoughs.  A couple pints of Guinness were enjoyed at a couple of pubs.  And so the evening ended without a strange soul met or bizarre event witnessed.

May 16, 2003

Breakfast was consumed at the Homeplate.  Rob and I then drove through a rocky and sometimes-desolate area called the Burren.  It used to be a place of soil and trees but Stone Age farmers of 5000 years ago cut the trees down and erosion had its way with the land.  I can just see these poor saps fighting tooth and nail for this land, cutting a few trees down and with one strong gust of wind, all the soil vanishing.


“Shit.  I wish Thag did not tell me to cut tree down.  Look at all this flippin’ rock.  Perhaps we can ask strange, bearded man-witch lady to cast spell.  Perhaps she can turn rock into beautiful donuts.”

Master Bobby and I then drove to the cliffs of Moher.  These cliffs are a sheer 200-300 meter drop to the ocean and depending how dramatic you are, it is possible to have your breath taken away.  I did not allow my breath to be taken away and held onto it like Shaggy and Scooby would a Scooby Snack.  We then ate a quick lunch and drove back to the hotel.

After making ourselves gorgeous, we had a lovely bite to eat at Fat Freddy’s.  From there, we went to a traditional pub named Taaffes.  As we stood there, Rob and I began talking to some Americans from Philadelphia.  There were the maternal twins of Mike and Tricia, their mother, their sister Cindy and their brother Bob and his wife.  The four siblings were part of a nine-sibling unit and were well rehearsed in the art of loveliness.  As we enjoyed each other’s company, six Irishmen in their forties began singing when the hired entertainment left for the night.

The lads.

As the amount of beer drank increased, the level of their voices followed suit:

Some say the devil is dead, the devil is dead, the devil is dead.
Some say the devil is dead and buried in Killarney.
Some say he rose again, rose again, rose again.
Some say he rose again and joined the British Army.

Is that guy playing the spoons?

At the end of each song, the musical leader of the gang kept firing into new song while one of his friends would accompany him on spoons.

Gorgeous maniacs.

They began talking to us after a song and asked us if any of us sang.  Rob quickly offered up my services and soon I was singing Wicked Game by Chris Isaac.  I received a hug or two and various handshakes from the lads upon my completion.

If it wasn’t for that damn happy, waving guy, one could say how my tortured rendition of “Wicked Game” brought a real beautiful sadness that would never be forgotten. 

It was at that stage that our seven-person American party waited outside.  The six Irishmen stepped out and began pulling us along.  The drunken music leader spoke, “Now, you’re all allowed to join us for a drink.  The Americans can come, the Palestinians can come…the whole lot of ya!”

As he spoke, he surveyed our group and fixed his eyes on Rob, went over to him and put him into a friendly headlock.  “Even Saddam Hussein here can come too!  Look everyone, I’m George Bush and I’ve got Saddam Hussein!  Look everyone, it’s Saddam Hussein!”  He then pulled Rob’s hood of his jacket over his head and began kissing it.  The scene was delicious.  I will now end the day’s report and shun any further interpretation of this moment as it could possibly dilute the pristine majesty of it.

May 17, 2003

After a morning awakening, Rob and I again made the first meal of the day so at the Homeplate.  We then casually walked back to our room and went our separate ways.  I brought some toys for my friend Matt and walked around the town.  When I came back, I turned on the television and was greeted by the last 60 seconds of an episode of Airwolf.  Normally, I would go into some great detail on something like this but moments later, I came across a comforting episode of the A-Team that had the brilliant audacity of having Boy George and the Culture Club as a guest star.  What an artistically perfect matching.  It was like combining fighting and a Friday night.  So well did some of the acting play out that it was hard to tell if Mr. T’s giddiness he experienced when meeting Boy George was acting or real feelings.

Once Rob returned, I forced him to watch some of this fine programming.  We then headed to Nimmo’s located by the Spanish Arch on the bay.  My girlfriend had, what I deemed to be, unwarranted concerns of me being lured by foreign female lovelies.  If she could have seen the environment that Rob and I dined in and how truly gay we looked as we shared not only a bottle of red wine but also a serving of tiramisu, the possibility of me being approached by another woman would have seemed scarcer than Fat Albert winning “The Most Improved Award” at skinny camp.

Rob then paid the bill and I lit up a Romeo and Juliet No. 3 cigar.  We walked into an extrmely traditional pub and enjoyed the rantings of the Irish rendition of a hippie.  His beard had the capability of concealing half a dozen eggs, 54 houseflies, three dudes and a snowstorm.  He had the ability to be more liberal than the most flagrant, Harvard Square protest rat.  But through it all, I enjoyed his company for a brief while.  I also admired his tendency to grab someone else’s guitar in the pub and play and sing while telling me stories of his trip to Graceland.

We decided to move on to Taaffes again and were rewarded by the surprise presence of one of the nine-minus-five gang from Philadelphia.  Although Michael was on his own, he drank with a powerful air that faithfully and equitably represented the missing members of his team.  I admired his solitary Saturday night social girth.  The three of us finished our beers and had one last round in the Jury’s Inn hotel.  Rob and I bid farewell to Michael and went back to our room.

May 18, 2003

We awoke to our last day in Ireland.  Rob and I put away a quick meal and drove to Shannon Airport.  Like good lads, we spent our last Euro Dollars and waning moments on Ireland’s finest stout.

When we finally landed in Boston, we received the warm and loving reception that only our Valerie Geary could provide.  I’ve never actually had a woman waiting on her own free will for me at the airport that had washed her hair and applied that subtle Sunday amount of make-up.  The three of us drove back to 83 Willow Street, West Roxbury with the ragtop down so our hair could blow.

Rob boarded his rugged Jeep Wrangler and Valerie and I spoke of tender matters.  I bid you all goodnight.

May 19, 2003

This morning I awoke to a beautiful day.  As I looked out the kitchen window, two birds landed on the fence and appeared to greet me.

“Yes, my winged allies, indeed I have returned on one of your large, steel cousins.  Go now!  Spread the word of my return to your peers in the animal kingdom!”

They flew off like teenagers found drinking in the woods by the police.

Although the day was long at work, I managed to somehow enjoy myself.  It was that renewed sense of my purest self that one experiences after time away.  I know not for sure where my next trip will take me, but I will make it so that you hear of it in this written form.  Good day.