You are browsing the archive for 2010 May.

Blueberries

May 30, 2010 in dublin, Ex-Patriate Games, Ireland, spazarific

My landlords have recently put a patio set out in the back, where the laundry machines are, and this is awesome. There are two chairs, a small glass table, a small potted section of palm tree, and a bucket filled with sand to serve as an ash tray. I don’t smoke, but I do sit, and I do look at the new flowers they’ve planted, and the drying line, hung with someone else’s pants, and the basket of blueberries I’ve brought with me, and my laptop; opened to a new short story that, for some reason, flowed in the rough draft stage but is now stalling in the first several pages. There’s a problem with the language more than anything else, and perhaps the pacing of the opening section, but I can’t figure out what it is.

So I’m eating blueberries and enjoying the weather, which my thermometer says is 16 degrees, which means it’s warm enough to sit outside wearing just my Aran jumper and a pair of slacks. Yesterday it rained and I couldn’t find the swans in the Grand Canal and wondered – where do they go when the weather is bad? I walked up and down Camden Street and looked at rows of brightly colored buildings, stuck together, snaking towards City Centre, shining in the soft damp wet. A butcher, John Lynch the Swan, Flannery’s pub, a homeopathic remedy shop, a stationery boutique, a pet store which only sells birds and fish and hamsters and which is not, as far as I’m concerned, a real pet shop.

I looked at the giant sign that reads THESIS – marking the shop that binds and publishes theses. In just a few months, I will head there myself and hand over my Master’s portfolio. Until I do, the sign seems to wink at me each time I pass by; much larger than the other signs on the street, visible from much farther away.

So I better get back to work on this story. Figure out why I’m having trouble with the start. Listen to Warren G’s “Regulate” and finish off the blueberries and keep an eye out for my laundry. If the sun came out, things would be really nice. If a kitty cat wandered into the backyard, things would be perfect.

EDITED TO ADD:

Bliss.

Your Hiberno-English Word of the Day

May 29, 2010 in spazarific

Hello, gorgeous.

Today’s secret word is gorgeous. Let’s see how it works.

American-English: That sweater you got from KMart is pretty cute.

Hiberno-English: That jumper you’re after buying from Dunnes is just gorgeous!

Got it? Cute/pleasing = gorgeous. That goes for budget clothes, people, objects, and behavior. I can be gorgeous if I feel like it, just by buying a round of drinks! Who knew it was that easy? And to think of all the money I’ve spent on dresses and deodorant.

The way the Irish use gorgeous strikes me as interesting, especially when you note that in most cases, it’s American-English that veers towards the spastic while Hiberno-English is reserved.

For example:

American-English: Thanks, dude! That’s awesome.

Hiberno-English: Grand. Cheers.

Or:

American-English: Have a nice day!

Hiberno-English: Good luck to ya.

Or

American-English: Omg! You got the job! High-five, dude! Congrats!

Hiberno-English: Well done.

In sum – take the enthusiasm down a notch. But if you want to look gorgeous, head to Dunnes.

Amster… DAMN! That’s a Dirty City.

May 28, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Holidays

One of the highlights of my recent visit to Germany was a day-trip to Amsterdam. City of canals and free puff.

Amsterdam is about a 2.5 hour drive from Düsseldorf, on the Autobahn all the way. Zum zum. At our first approach into the city, we noticed the lovely houseboats moored on the canals, and rows of tulips flanking the streets.

How pretty.

And then we noticed this:

Every street was like this; strewn with piles of litter and in some cases, lined with walls of garbage bags. The trash cans, however, were mysteriously empty.

Free association. Topic: Amsterdam. Go!

Legalized marijuana. Tourism. Bicycles. SEX. American girls gone wild. Beer in a glass at the movies. French fries drowned in mayonnaise. Look. It’s legal to buy it and it’s legal to own it. If you’re the proprietor of a hash bar, it’s legal to smoke it, but you can’t just get a joint and start puffing away; you have to smoke at home or in designated areas. I know. You’d dig it the most.

But trash? No.

The aftermath of a citywide parade? A garbageman strike?

Beats us. But, Amster-DAMN! That’s a lot of trash.

This post has been brought to you by Deliciousbaby Photo Friday.

Some Like It Raw: Mettbroetchen in Düsseldorf

May 26, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Looking, spazarific, WanderFood

On my second day in Düsseldorf, my friends Hans and Marie took me to a series of Düsseldorf brauhauses. If you’re religious, you know that a brauhaus is where good beer drinkers go after they die. Beer hall/beer garden, flowing with home brew. No need to head to the bar as a waiter makes frequent rounds. Leave your glass uncovered when he comes by and get an automatic refill. The kicker? A glass at a German brauhaus only costs around 1 Euro. Paradise found.

We started the brauhaus tour at Uerige, home to the famous wooden statue of the Düsseldorf cartwheeling boy. I was slow to get hep to the automatic refill routine, so I ended up double-fisting immediately.

Age old proverb: Double-fist beer and you’ll soon need a good nosh. A peek at the Uerige menu revealed a selection of simple German snacks like Blutwurst (blood sausage), pickled eggs, Liverwurst, pickled cucumbers, and bread. It was Marie who suggested I try the Mettbroetchen, a regional specialty. Mettbroetchen is raw ground pork on a roll, served with or without raw diced onions.

It is here that I reveal my penchant for raw or rare flesh. What can I say? I love it. Always have. As my brother would say: cut off its horns, wipe its snout, and put it on a plate*. I’ve devoured steak tartare, raw oysters, shrimp, octopus, horse, and chicken liver. And, of course, my fascination with sushi was the earliest inkling of the Japanophilia that eventually led me to live in Osaka for two years. Some day, my tombstone will read: She wouldn’t smoke cigarettes or do drugs, but by cracky, did she love her some raw meat. So, yeah, I’ll have some Mettbroetchen. How do you say ‘bring it’ in German?

The rolls arrived, smeared with a pink, sheeny substance – identical to what I bring home cold and dead from the butcher. At that moment, it struck me that perhaps this was a bit gutsy; trichinosis and such. I’d only recently overcome a furious bout of seafood poisoning after all. But to travel is to discover – clueless and eager as a newborn, everything goes in the mouth.

“With salt and pepper,” instructed Marie, lashing her Mettbroetchen with spices. I followed suit, catching a whiff of pungent onions as I hunched over my brauhaus snack. I lifted my roll. I took a sip of briny beer to prepare my palate.

FACT: Raw ground pork on a roll is pretty freaking tasty. Savory and smooth with a slight smokiness; heightened by the crunch of tart onions. Perfect with dark beer.

FACT: Raw ground meat topping gets stuck in the teeth like nobody’s business.

I’m talking caveman rules here. Kill pig, put in mouth. Grunt. Chew. Grrr – back off or I get club. This my Mettbroetchen. Mine. And Mettbroetchen delicious.

*sorry, Vegans.

This post has been brought to you by WanderFood Wednesday.

This post has also been entered in the  Grantourismo-HomeAway Travel Writing Competition.

The Mystery of the 25 Year-Old Guatemalan Rum

May 24, 2010 in spazarific, The Odd Siblings

In the fall of 2000, my father invited his friend over. The goal of the evening: to crack into a bottle of 25 year-old Guatemalan rum my father had been saving for a special occasion. My father’s friend was quite the Central American rum aficionado – this was occasion enough.

The friend arrived, and my father opened the liquor cabinet. The liquor cabinet was, itself, a handsome piece of furniture, also from Guatemala. Blond wood and beautifully carved, it exhaled a sweet cedar scent each time it was opened. My father brought out the prized bottle of rum and cracked the seal, noting that it opened rather easily. He poured his friend a tumblerful and watched his reaction carefully.

“Mmm,” said the friend.

My father was surprised; he had expected more. He took a sip himself.

The 25 year-old Guatemalan rum had been replaced by water.

WHO DRANK MY FATHER’S VINTAGE RUM?

Read the rest of this entry →

Sidestreets of Düsseldorf and Cologne

May 21, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games

“Facebook just sounds like a drag. In my day, seeing pictures of people’s vacations was considered a punishment.” – Betty White

Consider this yours. You’ve done something. I don’t know what, but you’ve done something to deserve this.

It’s no secret that my love for side streets has blossomed since I’ve moved to Europe. Winding, partially hidden, and full of secrets like overlooked boutiques and architectural treasures. Here, some shots of side streets in Düsseldorf:

Ambling through the Altstadt, en route to Uerige Brauhaus....

Read the rest of this entry →

How to Play With Your Friend’s Child When You Don’t Speak the Same Language

May 20, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games

  1. Bring a gift. I don’t know. Candy. A video game; how much do they cost these days? A stuffed animal – perhaps a small white lamb with an orange-and-green scarf around its neck and a four leaf clover stamped on its ear. ‘Cause lambs are symbols of Ireland, you know. Where daddy’s former host sister lives.
  2. Smile. Because gift + smile = buddy. That, or “papa’s pathetic loser friend.” Follow my lead: if the gift is said Irish lamb-cum-scarf, it’ll be the former.
  3. Nod. Laugh at what seem to be the appropriate moments while said child chatters away in their language. While marveling at what a remarkably adorable child your old friend and his wife have raised. While realizing that all of your friends are excellent parents. That your friends are amazing; role models; grown ups.
  4. Learn to say “yes,” “no,” and “what is this?”

Observe:

Child: Der shokolade *** *** *** ein zwei drei *** *** *** *** flug?

You: Ja.

Child: *** **** *** wo ist der *** *** ***?

You: Ja.

Child: (puzzled look)

You: (authoritative look)

Child: *** *** ***.

You: Was ist das? (pointing to an object)

Child: Das ist der huhn.

You: A chicken. Okay. Was ist das?

Child: Das ist der prinzessin.

You: It’s a princess? Nice. Was ist das?

Repeat until the child grows weary. Child feels powerful, you learn vocabulary, and inter-language communication has taken place. Restrain yourself from making a quick set of flashcards; in this instance, you are the student, not the ESL teacher. And this child is a very good child, not a potential adult-molester. You will remain in one piece.

In the morning before she goes to Kindergarten, she offers you the company of her teddy bear so you won’t be lonely while she and her mother are gone. While she’s explaining something to you, she drops her voice to a whisper – a secret. You are the perfect person to tell, because you have no clue what she’s saying. And, later, when it’s time to head back to Ireland, she waves over and over – Tschüss! Tschüss! Tschüss! – until you’re out of sight.

When Worlds Collide

May 20, 2010 in Oishii, WanderFood

Grow up in America and you might equate potato pancakes with Hanukkah. Here in Germany, however, potato pancakes – or Kartoffelpuffers – are eaten year round by all; usually at streetmarkets, enjoyed with a glass of cold wine or beer. In Cologne, where we’re spending the day, they call ‘em Schnibbelkuchens. Me? I call ‘em “Kommetomamas.” Whatever name they go by, they are sumptuous little critters; crispy and greasy with a comforting hit of mealiness that melts in your mouth. They’re often served plain or with applesauce, and in this region, topped with pink slabs of smoked lox.

This little baby is definitely ready for its close up, Mr. DeMille.

But wait. What’s all this?

It’s bacon! Bacon, hidden underneath the lox – a salty, chewy, surprise. Bacon and lox. Polar opposites of the health spectrum, yet such an exquisite combination. It’s a match!

This post has been brought to you by WanderFood Wednesday.

To the Man With the Tweed Hat Who Sat Next to Me on the 128 Bus…

May 9, 2010 in dublin, Ex-Patriate Games

… and eyed me for a good five minutes before asking me, “And where are you from yourself?” and then, “New York? So you’re American. You know, we get a lot of foreigners in Ireland these days. They’re on the social welfare and they’re doing odd jobs and they don’t speak English. Immigrants, you know what I mean.”

and

“Oh, I’ve no problems with the Americans. Ye speak English and that. Just to say that this sort of thing is happening a lot these days. Lots of foreigners around here, you know. Taking from the government.”

Man with the tweed hat, I would like to ask you:

What would you have said to me if I weren’t American?

Life is Easy in the Green

May 7, 2010 in dublin

One term paper down; one more to go. Getting to that M.Phil inch by inch, even if it kills me to sit still and concentrate during this glorious Irish spring. Case in point: the other day, I went to to school to pretend to get some work done, but was too distracted to accomplish much of anything. I made meaningless tweets; I rocked in my chair; I looked at my friends’ vacation photos on Facebook; I filled the empty writing centre with David Bowie classics; I nibbled at a Bounty bar and wished I’d bought the pain au chocolat instead. Nothing doing. By dinnertime, I was even procrastinating on the Facebook profiles I had yet to browse, so I decided to get back to procrastination basics. Enter a walk home through a St. Stephen’s Green in full spring bloom.

Read the rest of this entry →