Now, I know you want to read about when I was 17 and attended a weekend biker ralley in Denmark (all the hardcore bikers from around Europe converged on a farm for the weekend), but since some of my unmentionables went missing that weekend and later showed up nailed to a clubhouse wall, I shan’t relate that story, lest I blush and find myself unable to make eye contact with you in the future when we bump into each other near the holiday hams at Cub Foods.
And I could regale you with a story about camping around Iceland for ten days, my body sucking up around-the-clock arctic light; upon return to the States, my body’s internal clock was so confused that I ended up with a surprise pregnancy–a daughter now six!–out of the deal. A quick summary of that part of my life goes: “Whee. Whoa. Wow. Whoops.” But again, if you’d read a detailed account of such a happy, but personal, mistake, how could we chat superficially at the Cub Foods after running in to each other in the cereal aisle? We’d be fake-smiling, trying to come up with things to say, mindlessly loading our carts with heaps of unneeded Quaker Oats, while your brain would be spinning: “Oh, man, I know way too much about this lady to even pretend to care about the weather. But just keep smiling, Skeeter. Just keep smiling. And nodding. And making those affirmative noises in your throat.”
Or I could tell you a story about being in the airport in Chisinau, Moldova, when I tried to crack a joke about how I was visiting the country with the intent of drinking lots of their famous wine and then standing on the corners to sell Levi jeans for a huge profit (hey, it was after the Iron Curtain had fallen, so I thought the place might have lightened up. Who knew 70 years of Soviet influence wouldn’t just melt away into good humor and that I would be pulled out of the baggage area and made to stand aside and be scowled at while my passport was “taken to another room”?). But again, if I told you this story, there you and I would be, standing stiffly in the Cub Foods cookie aisle after we reached out simultaneously for a package of Keebler Merry Mints, taking turns retreating and saying, “No, really, you go first” and then lurching out again at the same time and clunking hands, making you think to yourself, “Honestly, I swear this woman is the type of annoying person who would think making jokes to uniformed officials in crumbling countries is appropriate. And she probably plans to serve these cookies at a neighborhood party, passing them off as homemade. ‘Oooh, look at me: I worked for hours, trying to get the icing just so!’”
So I guess I’m left telling you another story about Ireland, where even poor behavior seems only “naughty” at worst, and it’s the uniformed officials themselves who are cracking the jokes at the airport.
When last you left me in Ireland, I was cursing at a pony and muttering “Never again…Never again…” The good news is that I hitched up my chaps, tucked my spurs into my backpack, and got over my pony trauma before deciding the next thing to do was explore, on foot and by car, Co. Donegal–a remote place with sparse bus service, which left me asking my B & B hostess, “You’re really sure it’s safe for single women to hitch-hike around here?” Assured that hitch-hiking was common practice in the area, I began relying upon it to get me around the county.
After warming up my thumb the first day with an intricate exercise involving balancing jelly beans on my thumbnail and then flipping them into my mouth (repeatedly), I set off for the coastal mountain/hiking area of Slieve League, scoring four rides whilst to-ing and fro-ing.
The first guy was a handyman who hollered, “Ya don’t mind sitting in back with the tools, do ya?” Not at all. I made off with his monkey wrench.
The next husband and wife were very prim, venturing so far as to ask me if, indeed, everyone in the United States carries a gun. Upon exiting the car, I blasted them with my Supersoaker.
After my muddy, awe-inspiring, 3-hour hike at Slieve League, I was picked up by Liam, who asked me to sit up front and cradle his Sunday paper on my lap. Sensing a fetishist, I obliged, but I managed to steal the crossword puzzle and leave him, undoubtedly, bereft of the sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing which 1970’s rock group performed “Mr. Blue Sky” and filling in the accompanying three-letter answer.
Finally, I hitched a ride with an enthusiastic 19-year-old who was incredibly happy to see me–or anyone else, for that matter. This lad never met anyone or anything he didn’t like…especially MacGuyver, with whom he was obsessed. “Lawse, but that man can do anything! Give him a rubberband, a spatula, and some brown sugar, and he can make a bomb! And what about his hair? Isn’t it cool? Didya notice my hair? I had it cut and bleached to look just like his–you know, that actor Richard Dean Anderson. Doncha think I look like him?” Not having the heart to tell him that highlighted mullets had gone out of style, well, before there ever was style, I remained mum. But I did show him how to make chewing gum out of tree sap, a match, and tire tread before he dropped me off.
Heady with the power of The Hitch, I set out again the next day, this time walking to the local strand (aka “beach”), where I intended to take artistic photos of fog and throw rocks at seagulls. On my way back to the B & B, as I walked the narrow road, I was almost body slammed by a careening Mercedes Benz, driven by a buck-toothed weasel named Justy, who looked and acted like Dr. Frankenstein’s sidekick, Igor (“Yessssss, Master…”). Next to him, in the Seat of Command, was a 63-year-old florid man named…
“Lord Hamilton, my dear, and so nice to have you aboard. Do sit in the back, and I’ll tell you about myself.” This he proceeded to do for 20 minutes, detailing his family’s pedigree, handing me a gold business card that had the weight and heft of a credit card, inviting me to stay at “the manor” next time I was visiting, and cautioning me off “the natives,” saying, “They’re animals and gypsies, every one of them.” Speechless in the backseat, and not by choice but because I couldn’t get a word in edgewise, I mentally reviewed the history of the Republic of Ireland: English landlords driving the native peasants to destitution and starvation…and there I was, sitting with one such modern “landlord” who’d not had the good sense to update his thinking or to really look at the substance of the native inhabitants of the town of Killybegs. Later, after he dropped me off with a shouted warning not to socialize with a soul in the town, I recounted his monologue to my B & B hostess, a native herself, who laughed herself silly and dismissed him with, “Ah, you were in a car with Himself! He’s quite a toff, eh?”
I still have that gold business card, and I still think often of how Lord Hamilton prided himself on being above the reality of the people who surrounded him. His pomposity created in him a crisis of character, one of which he’d never be aware–such was the state of his arrogance.
Even now, eight years later, I feel confident that if I ever run into him in the coffee aisle at Cub Foods, I will crack open a bottle of Torani’s Hazelnut syrup on his head and dump its contents into his declaiming maw, just to make him cease babbling about his importance. (You can hover down by the tea bags, gawking and assuring your fellow bystanders, “Trust me, I’ve read her blog, and I can tell you this is just like her.”)
And I guess I won’t be staying at the manor.