Category Archives: Travel

Hey, how about that game, huh?

I had thought the first thing you do when defeated is lower your colors, but these were still flying Sunday morning.

Yep, it’s true. I actually watched the Gamecocks beat up on the Volunteers Saturday night. Or at least, the second half.

We were in Gatlinburg staying with my brother-in-law and his wife at the resort development where they stay. A good time was had by all, although we’re glad to be back after some of my experiences driving in the mountains. More about that later.

We were coming back to the cabin Saturday night after walking up and down the main drag in town — actually, given the terrain, I have the impression it’s pretty much Gatlinburg’s only drag — and passing by the car you see above, which my brother-in-law and I had first seen in front of a neighboring cabin when we had hiked to the top of the mountain that morning. (Or nearly to the top. We stopped just yards from the actual top, where the management of the resort didn’t want people to go. So we didn’t plant a flag or anything, and gladly accepted a ride back down to the valley in a golf cart with one of the resort’s employees.)

As we passed by the car with the UT flags, I remarked with surprise that the owner wasn’t in Knoxville at the game, since he or she had driven all the way from Florida. This illustrates the level of attention I usually play to football, since the game was in Columbia. (Which leaves me still puzzled as to why the flags were on the car, but as you know, I will probably never understand the nuances of football fanaticism.)

My brother-in-law suggested it was probably halftime, so we could still catch the second half on the huge TV in cabin. That sounded way better than doing any more driving through the mountains at night (again, more about that later), although I had to say “Don’t you think it’s pretty much over by now?” I understood that it was still halftime, but I meant “over” in a won-lost sense, and in favor of the Big Orange.

But I was assured that anything can happen, and boy can it. When we got back and learned what the score was at halftime, we were all shocked, but pleasantly so. So I got a beer and settled down to watching the event happening back in relatively warm Columbia. I’ll confess I was a bit surprised to see the home folks dressed as though for a blizzard. The cheerleaders were in sweatsuits! Nice sweatsuits, but still… I didn’t know cheerleaders did that. I was glad the young ladies were warm, but mildly scandalized, I admit, at what I had assumed to be the immemorial custom of the game. At that moment, it was 50 degrees in Columbia, and 35 where we were — and getting rapidly colder.

But never mind the weather…

As surprising as the halftime score was, that was nothing to what we saw in the second half. I had braced myself to see the Vols make up their deficit as I watched, thereby re-establishing basic physical laws of the universe. And the way the Vols marched to one easy touchdown in the third quarter looked to be the beginning of that. But the opposite happened. And happened. And kept happening. The Cocks’ next TD made scoring look even easier. As did the three that followed. I found myself wondering, Who were those impostors in Gamecock uniforms? But no, these were the actual guys, showing what they could really do.

Watching the impossible happen, relentlessly, was a very pleasant way to spend the rest of a cold evening in the mountains.

How was it for y’all?

Near the top of our cold-but sweaty climb, Cooper was still full of cheerful energy. But we caught a ride back down.

Top Five Places I’d Like To Go — Lists 1 and 2

And no, I don’t want to see gladiators — although I did enjoy the Muay Thai in Bangkok.

On the previous post, Bud mentioned that he’d recently returned from a tour of 14 states plus Canada, which he was visiting for the first time. He said he still had “many bucket list places to visit,” and that this was a start.

I started to reply, but it got long, so I decided to turn it into a separate post.

I’m not sure I have a “bucket list.” Frankly, I’ve never really liked the term, as it has seemed a tad morbid to me. But I do love travel, and I would like to go to Canada sometime, just to say I did.

And now I’ve been to Boston, which I had always wanted to do. And I got to see my three fave things there — Fenway Park, the Constitution, and Quincy, John Adams’ hometown — Adams being my favorite Founder. And the Fenway Park visit was perfect, since we got to watch the Red Sox beat the Yankees, and sat out in right field while Jackie Bradley Jr. was still with the Sox and playing that position. Of course, that means in the other halves of the innings we were right behind Aaron Judd during his big home-run year, which was cool, but that was less of a thrill.

I’m not sure of anything else I’m burning to see for the first time here in our own country. I’ve seen most of the best bits at least once. That’s the thing about me and travel — I enjoy it, but I did so much of it when I was a kid. And most of that was here in the states, although the longest I ever lived in any one place was in South America. But with all that moving around I never got to either Europe or Asia growing up. I’ve addressed that since with trips to England, Ireland and Thailand, but I’ve still never set foot on the European mainland.

So I’ve got some places I’d like to hit internationally, some of which I’ve never been to.

But you know what? I think another reason I don’t think in terms of “bucket lists” is that I’m a guy who’d like to spend what time is available on things I’ve already experienced and would like to see again. Part of it is just that I like what I know I like, so I read favorite books and watch favorite movies over and over. But it’s also because I still haven’t experienced enough of those places, and want new experiences there. I mean, you can say “I’ve been to England” all you want — and we spent a couple of weeks there awhile back. But that wasn’t enough time to fully explore even the places where we went, not to mention the vast majority of the country, which we’ve never seen.

So I guess I have two Top Five Lists. The first is sort of the re-run list:

  1. London — We were there for a week, but just scratched the surface. Just last night, we rewatched “Notting Hill,” and my wife said she’d like to go to there, and I realized that when we were in town, we missed it even though we strolled through Hyde Park, right next door. And we rode by Hampstead Heath, but never got out and walked through it! And I’m just getting started…
  2. Ireland — A gazillion places we didn’t go in 2019. We barely touched the surface of Dublin, Waterford and Limerick. And then there are all the places we haven’t seen. I’d like to spend months just hanging out in County Kerry.
  3. Tokyo — All we saw was the airport — for several-hour layovers each way. And while it’s nice to be able to say I watched sumo on the telly in the first-class lounge (a one-time treat our travel agent had arranged), I’d kind of like to see the city.
  4. Various places in Ecuador — I’d like to show my wife where we lived in Guayaquil from 1962-65, and my old school, then hit a couple of beach towns — Salinas being my favorite, but I’d like to stay at the Humboldt Hotel in Playas again. And it would be awesome to visit the Galapagos, a place where I’ve never been. Although it’s not like we could just “swing by” there — it’s not exactly on the way
  5. New Orleans — I loved living there, but most of the main personal landmarks — my school, our home, in fact the whole dilapidated Navy base we lived on there in Algiers — are gone, completely. But cross the river, and so much of the coolest city I’ve ever lived in is still there, and I’d love to take my wife there.

The closest thing that almost made that list, but not quite, is Hawaii. But my wife and I were there for a couple of days in 2015, and saw my old house and school and other cool things like Waikiki, the Windward Side and Pali Lookout. But there’s so much more I’d still like to go back and see after all these years — I left there in 1971.

Then there’s the Places-I’ve-Never-Been List:

  1. Rome — You know, the center of the Western World. I was hugely into the Roman Empire when I was a kid, particularly during those two years of Latin. And now I’m Catholic, so I’m actually a “Roman.” My wife’s been there, and she could show me around. I can’t have pasta and I can’t have cheese, in fact my allergies are one reason I generally prefer to stay in English-speaking countries, but I’d risk it to go to Rome. And I can have vino, right?
  2. Spain — I wanted to go to England because it’s the mother country, and so much of my country’s culture comes from there. But living in South America as a kid, I got a sense of Spain kind of being a mother country as well. And wow, talk about a fascinating history. I’d want to hit all kinds of places — Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia, Pamplona, the other regions as well, particularly along the coast.
  3. Havana — Speaking of Spanish influence. I want to go to Havana before things have opened up so much that it gets too modern and touristy. Of all the Hispanic sites I can think of in the world, it probably attracts me the most.
  4. Greece — Athens certainly, but even more I’d like to make like Odysseus and get lost in those islands. Just chill, do beach stuff. You ever see that Lina Wertmüller film, “Swept Away… by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August?” Like that.
  5. Normandy — This is a military-history geek thing. I’d like to see where the landings happened, where the Allies landed 175,000 men in a day in the face of fierce Nazi resistance. I’d like to visit Carentan and Sainte-Mère-Église, and pay my respects at the cemeteries. I’d like to see those legendary, surprising hedgerows.

Note I’m limiting it to a Top Five, in respect for the Nick Hornby convention. There are other places I’d like to go, as well — Scotland, for instance. They’re generally in Europe, and I’m not going to apologize for being not only Eurocentric, but even Anglocentric. Other places are charming and fascinating, but the cultural influences that have acted upon me my whole life — the books I’ve read and such — have particularly inflamed my curiosity about this and that place in the Western World. We don’t live long enough to experience all the cultures of the world to an extent that is deeply meaningful. We don’t even live long enough to fully explore and grok our own, but I like to take stabs at it, in the attempt of better understanding my environment. The two places that related to that culture most vividly would probably be New York and London, and that’s why I’ve been to those places whenever I’ve had the chance. And it’s a big reason why I want to go to Rome.

I’m sure I’d hit quite a few other, more “exotic,” areas if I were drawing up a Top 100 list, or even a Top Twenty.

But this is what comes to me in response to what Bud said. How about you? Where do you want to go?

Oh, but wait — when we go to London, can we bop down to Portsmouth and see HMS Victory?

Sorry, Bud! I’m glad you had a great time in Boston!

Uh-oh, I spoke too soon. That one boat is looking rather lubberly. Are we out of green paint?

The other day I asked Bud how his Boston trip went, and to my embarrassment, he responded:

I sent you an email with photos. I guess you didn’t see it (or it got lost). Great trip but we needed more time.

Well, I can certainly identify with the “needed more time” part, and… I’m sorry about the email thing. I get way behind on it sometimes, but I think I’ve achieved a record at this point. I’m close to 8,000 unread at the moment.

I’m not going to get through all that today, but I did immediately go search for Bud’s missive, and found two emails, each with two photos. He sent them on Oct. 28, so no wonder I hadn’t seen them! I haven’t cleaned out my personal email account since… hang on… um, Sept. 13. No, to quote fellow Knight Ridder survivor Dave Barry, “I am not making this up.” I’m really that much of a slacker. (With my personal email, anyway. I keep up with my work one.)

Boston Bud

But I really enjoyed Bud’s pics, and I thought I’d share a couple with you. It was good to see Bud again, and I’m sure everyone in that bar knew his name. (When I was there, I rode by the place, but no one yelled out “Brad!” as we passed, or even “Norm!,” so I didn’t stop.)

And I was very pleased to see “Old Ironsides.” She must have a new first lieutenant now, the old one having been broken down to foremast jack for having let the larboard side get into a disgraceful condition when I was there. When I shared my trip with y’all, I was careful to show you only the starboard side, lest I reflect shame upon the Service. Port side looked like it hadn’t been painted in a lifetime.

But she’s looking fresh and presentable now, with everything shipshape and Bristol-fashion, so I’m proud to share her with you.

May we all visit Beantown again soon, and have all the time we wish!

We lost the queen at a bad time. Some brief thoughts…

Of course, it was a bad time for Britain, as you’ve probably read or heard a thousand times in recent days. But even before this sad occasion, there were pieces being written in reputable journals, such as this one in The Atlantic, foretelling woe for Albion. That was published in January, and it began:

The grim reality for Britain as it faces up to 2022 is that no other major power on Earth stands quite as close to its own dissolution…

So bad timing for Britain, and bad for me, too, as a blogger. My own 91-year-old mum was in the hospital having surgery — the placement of a pacemaker — that very day. She had just gotten out of the ER, and my brother and I had just seen her in post-op, when we got the news about the queen. (My mother is at home now and fine, thank God.)

Needless to say, I didn’t have time that day for blogging, or paying work, or much else. And things have been busy since.

But I had thoughts, and ripped them out over Twitter that day, when I had a sec, and thereafter. Which in a way was fine, because I really didn’t have any sort of coherent, strung-together essay popping up at that moment. Just a few quick thoughts. Here are some of them. I won’t embed the tweets, since y’all don’t seem to like that, but here are the thoughts:

I’ll add a couple more…

My headline is quite intentional. I say “we” and not “Britain,” because we’ve all lost someone of great importance to our world, someone who helped keep civilization anchored, someone who lived an unimpeachable life in view of the whole planet, and never did anything to embarrass or shame the human race, much less the British portion of it. (No matter how much I may like some of them, I have a hard time thinking of any American leader of whom I can say that.) She was a beacon of civilized restraint in a world increasingly condemning itself to drown in stupidity and snark. And she did it for 70 years! I really wish she could have beaten the Sun King’s record. And after that, I’d have cheered for her to beat Methuselah’s.

Y’all know, of course, that I’m an Anglophile. But I can still think of plenty of things to criticize the country for, from the dim times before Alfred the Great to the present time. But I don’t lay any of it at Elizabeth’s feet. At least, not this Elizabeth. And that is really, truly extraordinary. I doubt I’ll ever see anything like it again (and of course, I expect some of you will quickly share your Ten Worst Things About QEII lists. But those will say more about you than about her).

To sum it up, I will embed one of the tweets, so y’all can see the headline to which I was responding:

I’m a bit obsessed with my iPad, and my iPhone knows it

I hardly go anywhere without my iPad.

Certainly not if I’m going somewhere work-related — a meeting or an interview or whatever — because it’s easy to carry and can perform most work-related functions.

But I don’t go on vacation without it, either. And in the past, I haven’t even left the hotel or B&B without it. When we went to Thailand and Hawaii several years ago, I carried it in a drawstring bad strapped across my chest (I long ago outgrew the trying-to-look-cool thing) or back. See the embarrassing image below.

But by the time we went to Ireland and then to Boston, I’d decided if I absolutely had to do something while walking about on vacation, my phone would do. If I can keep the blasted thing charged.

Still, the iPad goes with me nearly everywhere.

And my iPhone has noticed. Lately, it’s been acting a bit sarcastic about it. Every time I leave the house now — for a walk, or to go to the grocery — I’ve started getting these notifications, like the one above, as soon as I’m a few blocks from the house.

They’re like, “Hey, you — it looks like you left your baby behind! Don’t you want to run back home and get it?”

OK, so maybe this isn’t petulance on the part of the phone. It seems to have started when I allowed the iPad to update its operating system recently. And there seems to be an easy way to turn off such notifications.

But… maybe one of these times, I really would want to go back and get it. So I’m leaving it on for now. I’ll just have to see how much it bugs me going forward…

Here I am with me mate Mark, whom I met on the road to Kanchanaburi in 2015. He’s a retired roofer from England. Note that in addition to the drawstring bag, I’m wearing my tropical-weight travel vest. So I’m really not kidding when I say I’ve outgrown trying to look cool on the road.

 

Highlights of the Boston trip, July 7-July 13, 2022

One of the twins shot this of me at the Navy Yard in Charlestown, with the Boston skyline in the background.

The main attraction in going to Boston was to spend time with our twin granddaughters, who are doing a summer intensive program at the Boston Ballet. Of course, they were only free to hang out on Saturday and Sunday, so we planned our itineraries with them in mind on those days.

On Friday, Monday and Tuesday, we did other stuff. On almost every day of the trip we had a great time, although I had to do the last day alone because my wife developed some serious back problems and had to stay at the B&B. How serious? Serious enough to make her give up seeing things she had really looked forward to. But the rest of the time was great. (We think it was the walking — miles and miles more than we were used to, on a daily basis. My legs got stiff and sore, but I was able to walk it out the next morning. So I was the lucky one.)

This was our first time in Boston. It was also my first time this far north in this country, although we were at much higher latitudes in England and Ireland.

Quincy. This filled the schedule for Friday (the Red Line will take you all the way down there, but it’s still a trek) — the home town of John Adams (and Abigail, and their boy John Quincy), my favorite Founding Father. We saw and toured… John’s birthplace, John Quincy’s birthplace, the more palatial home where John and Abigail lived in later years (and where they both died), the Church of the Presidents where John Quincy had four pews at his disposal, and where all three of them and John Quincy’s wife, Louisa, are buried (in the crypt downstairs). And it was an interesting town to walk around and see how it has changed over time. We had lunch at a Mexican restaurant, but we could have gone with Chinese, Italian, Korean, Indian or Vietnamese. We could have had a Thai massage, too, but I was sure it would cost a lot more than the one I had in Kanchanaburi. Back in John Adams’ day “diversity” in Quincy meant being Congregationalist or Unitarian instead of Church of England.

The farmhouse in which John Adams was born — and where he started his law practice.

This stone structure is the Adams library, behind their later home — but John didn’t live to see it. It’s about the size of his birthplace.

Newton. We didn’t stay, technically, in Boston, but way out west in Newton — originally because that’s where the twins’ classes are, but that ended up not mattering since we could only get them over the weekend. But it was a delightful town, full of very old houses in fantastic restored condition — including the B&B we stayed in. Within a block or two were several nice places to eat, but my fave was O’Hara’s Food and Spirits. I recommend the Broiled Steak Tips. We were staying less than 100 yards from a Congregationalist church with a bell that rang the hour every hour — but if we kept the AC on in our bedroom, we couldn’t hear it. Best part: We were only about a block from the Newton Highlands station on the Green Line. Which leads us to…

The starting point of each day’s trek — Newton Highlands station on the Green Line.

Newton is full of old houses, beautifully restored. Dig the stained-glass windows above the porch.

Public Transportation. We flew there, and of course we didn’t rent a car, because this is a Civilized City, and provides ample, efficient, affordable public transportation. Which as you know, I love. I don’t go to places like London, New York and Boston for the subways alone, but they add greatly to the attraction. It’s so wonderful to go wherever you want without having to freaking drive. If I’d had a car with me, I’d have parked it on the outskirts of town.

When it comes to subways, I love the stations almost as much as the trains.

… especially this one. And no, it’s not Fenway — it’s Kenmore, which is more convenient to the ballpark.

Masks. As I said, this is a Civilized City — a place that doesn’t ignore things — so people wore masks. Not everybody. I’d say at least half the people on the trains did, and more than that in museums and restaurants. And all the kids there for Boston Ballet wore them all the time — they get tested every day, and if you’re positive, you’re on your way home, and none of them want that. There was one big exception: Fenway Park was full for that game with the Yankees on July 10, and my wife reckons she and I were the only two masked people. She enjoyed the game, but she figures that’s where she got the COVID that showed up in a positive test three days after we got home. Fortunately, despite the back problem, she didn’t feel sick until we’d been back a day or two. (She’s usually the healthy one, but she’s had a rough few days.)

In most situations, masks were the norm.

But sometimes, when they were most needed, they were not.

Unfamiliar features of the Earth. We knew the weather would be different — which is to say it was not insane the way it is here. Since it was July, it was very warm in the middle of the day, but blissful in the evening. And I knew intellectually that the days would be longer this far north. I was a bit surprised, though, when the sun rose and woke me up at 5:16 the first morning. It wasn’t to rise in Columbia for more than an hour after that. So we got up and got started.

The weather up there mostly felt the way this garden at Isabella’s museum (below) looked.

Isabella Stewart Gardner. She was an amazing woman, and she left behind an amazing museum. It’s surprising there were any cultural artifacts left in Europe — or the Far East — after her Gilded Age shopping spree. We were numb after a couple of hours of turning yet another corner and being confronted by yet another work of art we’d seen pictures of all our lives — including some personal favorites, such as John Singer Sargent’s El Jaleo (which is way, way bigger than I would have expected). Name it, she had it — Rubens, Raphael, Matisse, and yes, Rembrandt. (Where did she keep the Raphaels? In the Raphael Room. Duh.) I kept thinking, would it be possible for one individual today — Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, take your pick — to amass such a collection? I think not. Not at current art prices.

If you’re a dancer, you respond to great art in your own way.

See what I mean?

The Navy Yard. (Or, as the driver/guide on the trolley my second time over there explained, the Navy Yahd. He also told us that 8,500 women wuhked theh while the men were off fighting the wah.) This was the first thing I added to the itinerary as my wife was planning it. (Or maybe it was tied with Fenway Park). That’s because the U.S.S. Constitution, Old Ironsides, the world’s oldest ship afloat, is tied up there, and I was determined to inspect her. She did not disappoint. One of the nation’s original Six Frigates, laid down in 1794, you can easily see how she would have intimidated the Brits a few years later. I wasn’t piped aboard, and had no sideboys, but the ship — which is still commissioned as part of the U.S. Navy — was thinly manned (and in some cases, womanned), no doubt because the Americans didn’t press sailors. But they did serve grog in those days, and you can’t say fairer than that. I loved it, and my wife and granddaughters seemed to take interest as well. (For my part, I went back again on that last day, when I was alone.) I hadn’t planned it, but one of the twins and I also toured the USS Cassin Young, which was meaningful in a different way: My Dad served on destroyers just like that one, and I was able to explain a lot of it to my granddaughter.

Beautiful from here, but if you saw the paint on the larboard side, the 1st lieutenant would hang his head in shame.

Aim carefully: 32-lb. carronades are genuine smashers, but unless you’re right alongside, you can’t hit anything.

You can’t charge your phones. This is my one complaint about Boston — it’s hard to find public places where you can recharge, which is a huge problem when you’re taking enough pictures to fill a museum. I should have taken one of those portable pocket batteries, but I did not. This was particularly rough on Sunday, the 10th. We scrambled about the area around the Kenmore station for more than an hour, trying to find a fast-food place or somewhere we could have a bite and recharge at our table. No dice. For that reason, I only took about four pictures during the ball game at Fenway, and before the game was over, both our phones were dead. Which is a little spooky when you’re not 100 percent sure your train will be running after 11 p.m. on a Sunday (it was). I had another bad experience the last day, when my wife had stayed at the B&B nursing her bad back, and I was trying to stay in touch. I ended up walking from Bunker Hill down to the river, across it, and up several blocks past Faneuil Hall, trying at multiple places to recharge — McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks. I finally ended up squatting in a corner of Chipotle, next to the garbage bin, at the only outlet they would allow me. After about 20 minutes, my phone’s charge had only increased about 10 percent, and I’d had enough. I headed for the train to Newton. At Logan airport when we were leaving, I found sockets between a lot of the seats at the gate. It would have been nice to have a few of those when we were in town.

If you need to recharge your phone while having a bite before a ball game, don’t go here. Image from Google Maps.

Red Sox crush the Yankees. If you like the Red Sox, as I do, I can recommend few more enjoyable experiences than watching them trounce the New York Yankees in Fenway Park. Of course, it’s a bit tricky determining in advance when that will happen, but we chose a good night. The Sox not only won, thereby splitting a four-game home stand with the most hated of rivals, but they did it in a most satisfying way. The pinstriped guys scored two runs in each of the first three innings, which was enough to give a Boston fan the sinking feeling this pattern would continue until the end. It did not. After scoring three in the first three, the Sox scored three in the fifth, one in the sixth, and four in the seventh — just to put a nice, shiny finish on the job — while the Yanks put up nothing but goose eggs the rest of the game. Our honored Gamecock Jackie Bradley Jr. — who was right in front of us there in right field — went one for two before he and several others were taken out for pinch hitters during that hitfest in mid-game. We were also in good position to keep a watchful eye on that Aaron Judge fellow. It was a beautiful night. The game was perfect, the weather was perfect. I ate both peanuts and Cracker Jack, and while I did not care whether I ever got back, when it came time to do so, we were jammed like sardines into the train with a very, very happy crowd, all the way out to Newton.

I’d thought the Curse was broken in ’04, but then this guy sat down in front of us. The Sox won anyway.

One of only three shots I managed to get after the game started. But a great crowd, and a great game.

Salem. Ken had warned me it was just a tourist trap, and he was right enough. But we went anyway, partly to see the statue of Roger Conant, the twins’ great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather (but no ancestor of mine — the twins are my daughter’s children, but Conant is on their father’s side). Of course, maybe even Ken would have been impressed by the first statue we saw there — of Samantha Stephens from “Bewitched.” Really. Can you imagine anything tackier than that — a ’60s sitcom witch memorialized in the place where 19 innocents were killed in an early incident of mass insanity (by “early,” I mean “before 2016”)? And it was a terrible statue. Elizabeth Montgomery was a lovely woman, and it didn’t do her justice. And there were some really sad-looking tourists about, dressed in black like Theater majors and seeming to be living out a supernatural fantasy — a group of them had a great time taking each other’s pictures in front of Samantha. But we enjoyed walking about looking at the old houses in the McIntire Historic District.

Elizabeth Montgomery was way better-looking than this.

A reminder that more has happened in Salem than witch trials.

The North End. The night before our last day, my wife bought tickets for the hop-on, hop-off trolley that rides around the Freedom Trail — on account of her back. Her plan was that we’d hop on at the start of the route, but I wanted to go first to the North End — Boston’s Little Italy — for an espresso or two to start the day. As things turned out, by the time we got to the station that last morning, she urged me to go on alone, while she headed back to the B&B. I went to catch the trolley, but first went to Hanover Street for an espresso. But I wasn’t totally selfish. I also bought her a chocolate cannoli, which I then carried all day in the drawstring bag on my back. I did this in response to hearing Clemenza in my head, saying, “Drink the espresso; take the cannoli.” I then went to join the trolley over near the Aquarium station. I only rode it as far as Paul Revere’s house. Then, after taking advantage of the restroom at Old North Church and having another espresso across the street, I got back on the trolley to head over to the Navy Yard, and walked from there up Bunker Hill. Or Breed’s Hill. Whatever. Yeah, I told you this story just so I could paraphrase Clemenza.

“Drink the espresso. Take the cannoli.”

Just so you know the North End is Boston’s version of New York’s Little Italy.

The Freedom Trail. This is sort of the obligatory thing to do in Boston, especially if you spent as much time in college studying the early days of our republic as I did. We had intended to try to do it when the twins were with us over the weekend, but we couldn’t work it in. So it became a last-day thing. And I’ll confess I didn’t do it as thoroughly as I should have. But I did tour Paul Revere’s house, and admire his statue, and check out the gift shop of Old North Church. (There wasn’t as much in the church itself I needed to see. One if by land, two if by sea. Got it.) I did ride over to Charlestown and walk up to the Bunker Hill monument, just to check and make sure it was a hill, which I couldn’t tell from a distance. It was. For the first time, I felt the summer heat. After that, I was struggling with a phone running out of charge, and eventually got back on the train.

The guy who rode the horse in the poem…

Not my favorite Adams, but they seem to like him around Faneuil Hall…

Aside from the planned sightseeing, we ran across all sorts of wonderful things we hadn’t expected, such as the installation of bells by Henri Matisse’s grandson, which my granddaughters played as we crossed the Charles River at the locks. And did you know that they have a hotel named for that storied lawncare business in Philadelphia? Oh — and the Edgar Allen Poe statue! (Which confused me, because I thought he was from Baltimore.)

Oh, dang! As I wrote this, it suddenly occurred to me that I forgot to do something. I didn’t eat a single Boston bean! I guess we’ll have to go back…

You got that right, John. Quote posted on front wall at Peacefield in Quincy.

My all-time favorite historical marker

Hey, y’all. I’ve been out of pocket for a few days. We drove to Memphis on Friday, came back yesterday, and boy are my arms tired. Yeah, I know that old joke doesn’t really work there, but I’m wiped out and not fully functional at the moment.

But I thought I’d share this with y’all. On Saturday, we drove from Memphis to Jackson, Tenn., for a family get-together. That’s the place where I had my first newspaper job after graduation from Memphis State. We were there for 10 years. It’s where my wife, and our first three children, were born.

Anyway, before the family party, we showed my youngest daughter (who was born right here) around town. We hit various landmarks, including the houses we’d lived in, the newspaper building, and the Madison County courthouse square, the location of my favorite historical marker anywhere.

I think I’ve told you about it before, but it was good to see it again. But you know what? I don’t think I’d ever noticed before that the inscription is missing several commas. (How many are missing by your count?)

Oh, well. It’s still my fave. And here I am in front of the paper…

Top Five Irish Actors

Lincoln

Best on the list — and I didn’t even have him pegged as Irish

I was thinking about doing a rant against Identity Politics, which I still might do if I find time today or tonight, because now that Trump’s gone, it seems to be all we can talk about (the argument over motivations in the Atlanta shooting, this business over who gets to play on girls’ teams in school, the unrelated battle over whether enough resources are committed to female sport on the college level, etc.) when there are far, far more important things we could be talking about (the deteriorating relations with China and Russia, the Biden administration’s upcoming $3 trillion spending plan — yes, that number is correct — and a host of other things that I won’t mention because this parenthetical, and the sentence of which it is a part, are both far too long now).

But that would take a long time, and I have less than zero time available for it. So I’ll go completely in the opposite direction. Earlier, I randomly ran across a picture of Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane in a Tarzan movie, and idly thought, “Whose Ma was she again?” (Mia Farrow’s, for the curious.) And I found on Wikipedia that she was listed No. 8 on a list in The Irish Times of “The 50 greatest Irish film actors of all time – in order.”

So of course I had to look at it, so I could disagree with it. And not just with the fact that it’s undisciplined to list 50 when the proper number is five.

Anyway, just choosing from this list of 50 (there could be others, but I’m not going to spend time thinking about it), here’s my five. I’ll start with my apologies for not putting Maureen O’Hara at No. 1 the way they did, or even on the list. I mean no disrespect to the lady. Here’s my list:

  1. Daniel Day-Lewis — First, I had no idea he was Irish. I thought he was a Brit. But he’s definitely the best. Interestingly, some of my favorite performances by him were as iconic American figures: Abraham Lincoln, the ultimate frontiersman Natty Bumpo, and violent nativist Bill the Butcher. They had him at No. 2, behind Ms. O’Hara, but he’s the best.
  2. Kenneth Branagh — Also would have pegged him as a Brit. He certainly impersonates one well. He can be overbearing, but the man can act. I agree with them that he was most impressive as Henry V. But they were wrong to put him way down at No. 20 on the list.
  3. Brendan Gleeson — He’s just magic in everything. If you haven’t seen it, try to find The Guard and stream it. He’s great. They had him at 18.
  4. Maria Doyle Kennedy — You may remember her as the hottest of the Commitmentettes. (Yes, I know Angeline Ball — in the center in that picture — was the prettiest, but I found Maria, whom you see to Angeline’s right as well as below, more appealing.) They had her at 46, and she deserves much better. She’d probably have been higher, except that — and this bugs me — you so seldom see her. But occasionally she’ll crop up where you don’t expect her — as Catherine of Aragon in “The Tudors” or Siobhán Sadler in “Orphan Black.”
  5. Chris O’Dowd — OK, he’s no Daniel Day-Lewis, or even particularly great at all, but I’m a huge fan of “The IT Crowd,” and I don’t think it gets enough attention, so I’m promoting him from where they put him, at 39. Mind you, if Richard Ayoade were in any way Irish, I’d have included him on my list — there’s a guy you don’t see enough, even less than Maria.

Honorable mention, with their ranks on the Times’ list:

8. Maureen O’Sullivan

9. Michael Fassbender

11. Barry Fitzgerald

24. Colm Meaney

That’s it. Back to work…

My favorite Commitmentette.

My favorite Commitmentette.

God and Mary and Patrick be with you all this day

I can think of nothing to say on this St. Patrick’s Day that isn’t said far better by this video.

The little girl is Emma Sophia, she’s 4 years old and she lives in Kinsale in County Cork. She’s become a bit of an Internet star during the pandemic, but as you see, it hasn’t spoiled her a bit.

Blarney Castle, March 17, 2019.

Blarney Castle, March 17, 2019.

The rest of us haven’t had a proper St. Paddy celebration this year or the last, but here’s a picture from the one two years ago, which I spent in Waterford, Blarney and Killarney.

In fact, two pictures from that day — one taken of Blarney Castle, and the other of a tall fella I encountered in Killarney. The parade had just ended, and he was letting folks have their pictures taken with him. Looks like someone who’d be kind to Americans, doesn’t he? Don’t ask me to explain the costume on the lady posing with him. A man in the same garb was taking the picture — there had been a whole troop of them in the parade…

Actually, I now realize I shared these same pictures, or ones very like them, last year. Oh, well — this holiday is all about tradition, so I don’t mind repeating myself. Ignore me, and go back and listen to little Emma Sophia again…

tall fella

Sure and LAST year, St. Paddy’s was all it should be…

The parade in Killarney was everyone one could wish for.

The parade in Killarney was everything one could wish for.

It was sort of like St. Patrick’s Day didn’t even happen today, wasn’t it?

No parades, here or anywhere else — including Ireland (except for this one I found).

Which, by the way, is where we were last St. Patrick’s Day.

We started the day in Waterford, which is where my wife’s people — the Phelans, or Ó Faoláins — are from, and where my people started the Norman/English conquest of Ireland, which as you know has led to a great deal of unhappiness that we try not to dwell on at my house.

The night before, we had gone to Mass at the cathedral that was right around the corner from our hotel, where we experienced a great blessing. The priest showed us — you’re not going to believe this — an actual relic of St. Patrick himself, on loan from Rome! As a convert, I don’t usually go in for that old-Catholic sort of stuff, but I was excited as anyone. And no, I didn’t ask what part of the good saint we were venerating; I just enjoyed our good luck to be there at the time.

I shot this pic of Blarney Castle on March 17, 2019, before my unfortunate ascent to the top.

I shot this pic of Blarney Castle on March 17, 2019, before my unfortunate ascent to the top.

The next morning, we got on the bus and headed to Blarney, where I climbed to the top of castle, got hit in my bad ear by a huge gust of wind, and immediately suffered one of the worst bouts of vertigo I’ve ever experienced. No, I did not kiss the stone. I just wanted to get back down alive. When I finally got down to the ground — for a bit there, I thought I never would — I kissed a stone at the very base of the tower, when no one was looking. I was that glad to be back on terra firma.

We got to Killarney precisely as the parade was beginning, and it was awesome. Small and quaint and homey and real. We then got a late lunch at a Thai place, of course.

Toward the evening we went about checking out the pubs, mostly guarded by tough-looking locals standing at the entrances smoking and saying, “not in this pub, tourist” with their eyes. At one point we passed one victim of spontaneous celtic enthusiasm sitting in the street bleeding. We went back to the hotel to have our pint there. I mean, you know, I had the wife with me.

There was this one young man with our group, not long out of college, who met an Irish lass who insisted that a pub full of locals admit him to their revels, and he was in no condition to sight-see the next day. But I think he got his money’s worth.

I think we all did. And may we all have such fine St. Paddy’s days in the future. Just not this year…

Even Uncle Sam was there! And taller than I thought. We ran into these guys after the parade.

Even Uncle Sam was there! And taller than I thought. We ran into these guys after the parade.

Look who I ran into! Harris and Patricia, and they’re doing great!

Harris and Patricia

In recent months, I’ve done more and more of my 11,000 steps a day walking around downtown during the day, and less on the elliptical in the morning.

One of the great things about that is running into friends.

Today, as I was walking along the edge of the USC campus — heading east on Pendleton Street — I encountered Harris and Patricia Moore Pastides!

As you can see, they’re looking great, and I can also report that they’re doing great. In fact, I should be doing so great.

Patricia admired the Irishness of the cap I was wearing, and I thanked her and told her I’d bought it outside Killarney last year. Then I learned that they’re about to go to Ireland, too, and they’re going to do it right. They’re not going to hustle about the country the way we did, but stay in one place — I think they said Dingle, which like Killarney is in County Kerry, right on the coast — and just go out hiking about from there!

Which is exactly what I’m going to do when I die and go to heaven. Or at least, when I wear out the two hats I bought and need another.

Anyway, it was great to see them, and I hope they have a trip that’s just as great as it sounds like….

Some advice for the Queen on handling Prince Harry

take sides

I’ve often thought of putting together a book of advice for life from “The Godfather.” But I figured getting the rights would be a hassle, and the royalties would probably eat away any money I’d make from it.

Still, fans would enjoy it, and maybe someone would actually get some good out of it; who knows? It’s not that I see the Corleones as a morally defensible guide to how to live one’s life, but the book and film do contain a lot of advice, good or bad. And some of it makes some common sense. Especially, I’ve noticed, to men.

Anyway, this is on my mind today because of the confab Her Majesty has called to help Prince Harry get his mind right (just to mix my movie metaphors a might). And I’m thinking the Queen, not being a guy, might not be hip to this stuff.

The first thing she and the other princes need to tell him is fundamental. I’m picturing William telling him this, while the others nod:

Harry, you’re my younger brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.

It doesn’t need that menacing look that Michael gave Fredo. Harry’s a good kid. Ask the South Carolina guardsmen who served with him in Afghanistan. They’ll back me up on this. Just reason with him; he understands duty.

But if he needs more convincing, the other thing they might say is a corollary to the first:

What’s the matter with you? I think your brain is going soft with all that comedy you are playing with that young girl. Never tell anyone outside the Family what you’re thinking again.

Which means like, ixnay on the Instagram posts. If you have something to say, run it through the palace press office.

As long as he listens, that should do it.

Yeah, I kid, but my own view of this situation isn’t all that far off. Harry does have an obligation to his family, and as an extension, to his whole country — which actually makes the obligation greater than just family. It’s not as heavy as that borne by his brother, but it’s still an obligation. Just show up, cut a few ribbons, keep your nose clean, and in return you get this amazingly posh life. You don’t tarnish the brand by running off to America and peddling tacky souvenirs, or whatever fantasy you have in mind for being “financially independent.”

‘Where are all the birds?’

'We're after eatin' all of dem," he said, without missing a beat.

‘We’re after eatin’ all of dem,” he said, without missing a beat.

We were on a carriage ride through the beautiful Killarney National Park on March 19, and our driver was a guy who had no problem playing to tourists’ expectations. He was a burly guy in a cloth cap whose previously broken nose made him look like an ex-boxer — an Irishman who embraced all stereotypes, cracking a steady stream of jokes that prominently featured Guinness, leprechauns and Irish whiskey.

And he did it in such a natural, unstudied way, and seemed to be enjoying himself so, that it was for me a highlight of our trip to Ireland.

As we rode through the park admiring the scenery, the medieval ruins, the miniature deer and other attractions, one of the ladies in our carriages noticed something I had not. She asked the driver, “Where are all the birds?”

He didn’t miss a beat. Looking over his shoulder with a smile, he said “We’re after eatin’ all of dem.”

As I tweeted at the time, I hadn’t kissed the Blarney Stone, but someone had…

My wife later said she would have liked a serious answer to the question. Me, I was delighted because I’m pretty sure that’s the only time during our almost two weeks in the country that I heard someone use that famous Irish construction of “after” followed by a gerund. Word guy that I am, it made my day.

So much for the anecdotal lede.

For those of you still after wanting a serious answer to the question, I’ll be after giving it to ye, soon as I finish me Guinness…

OK, here you go…

It was in The New York Times today, an opinion piece headlined “Three Billion Canaries in the Coal Mine:”

A new study in the journal Science reports that nearly 3 billion North American birds have disappeared since 1970. That’s 29 percent of all birds on this continent. The data are both incontrovertible and shocking. “We were stunned by the result,” Cornell University’s Kenneth V. Rosenberg, the study’s lead author, told The Times.

This is not a report that projects future losses on the basis of current trends. It is not an update on the state of rare birds already in trouble. This study enumerates actual losses of familiar species — ordinary backyard birds like sparrows and swifts, swallows and blue jays. The anecdotal evidence from my own yard, it turns out, is everywhere.

You may have heard of the proverbial canary in the coal mine — caged birds whose sensitivity to lethal gasses served as an early-warning system to coal miners; if the canary died, they knew it was time to flee. This is what ornithologists John W. Fitzpatrick and Peter P. Marra meant when they wrote, in an opinion piece for The Times, that “Birds are indicator species, serving as acutely sensitive barometers of environmental health, and their mass declines signal that the earth’s biological systems are in trouble.”

Unlike the miners of old, we have nowhere safe to flee….

It’s an ominously interesting piece, so I thought I’d bring it to your attention.

And now this picture I took last year of a dead bird on a street in my neighborhood comes in handy:

I was struck by the beauty of this dead bird. Can anyone identify it for me?

I was struck by the beauty of this dead bird. Can anyone identify it for me?

Oh, you mean THAT Scandinavian girl…

By the time we got there, the demonstration was fairly impressive.

By the time we got there, the demonstration was fairly impressive.

You ever notice how some people have a gift for summoning up a situation in a few words, while other people will give you War and Peace in response to the simplest questions?

I experienced that walking down a street in Dublin back on the Ides of March.

There were all these kids walking toward a demonstration carrying signs. Groups of them were converging from all over the city, wearing the uniforms of the schools they were skipping that day. So I fell in step with a woman who was with group of particularly young ones, like fourth or fifth graders, apparently as some sort of chaperone, and I asked her what was going on.

“It’s their first demonstration,” she told me. So I asked what the demonstration was about.

She started telling me about this Swedish schoolgirl, who had started a movement, and now all these Irish kids were caught up in it, and that’s about all I could make out what with the street noises and the bullhorn at the actual demonstration site, which we were approaching, and the lady’s accent, and my hearing problems.

She could have just said, “global climate change,” but she was not so verbally economical. From the signs and what I heard in the next moments, I figured that much out. But I went the rest of the day wondering what some Scandinavian girl had to do with it.

Well, by the time Greta Thunberg sailed across the ocean, I had put two and two together. And now kids around the world have skipped school again for the same purpose, and Greta herself has delivered her message to the U.N., and it seems she’s really ticked off about it.

Anyway, I’m all up to speed now.

They kept coming, in groups large and small from all over Dublin.

They kept coming, in groups large and small, from all over Dublin.

… and my regards to Her Majesty. Mind how you go…

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I had a brief contretemps with a Brit today, which as you can imagine — yours truly being such an unabashed Anglophile — made me frightfully uncomfortable.

But all ended well.

I tried to be a wag this morning with regard to Her Majesty’s former ambassador to her ancestors’ former colonies:

But one of our friends across the pond took it amiss:

I immediately sought to mend the rift:

Fortunately, my explanation was accepted:

So all is well, I believe. Fortunately, the English have no problem admitting error, unlike us. “Sorry” is their favorite word. Which is one of the things I love about them, in spite of my recent tour of Ireland, which should have radicalized me against the Sassenach. But it didn’t…

Make no mistake: I wish all the best to Mr. Darroch, and hope Her Majesty will find a good situation for him going forward. He’s the Queen’s good servant, and a friend to this country as well. It’s the truest friend who tells us what we need to hear.

So to all my friends over there, ones I’ve met and those I haven’t: God Save the Queen. And mind how you go…

The weather app on my phone is torturing me

In the foreground the old boards, in the background the new ones. In the far background, you can see some new ones that we've stained.

In the foreground the old boards, in the background the new ones. In the far background, you can see some new ones that we’ve stained.

For the last few weekends, we’ve been engaged in a project.Dublin

The deck on the back of our house has two layers of boards, running perpendicular to each other. I don’t know whether this is standard deck construction, but that is what we have. I suspect the top layer is newer than the other. When we bought the house 21 years ago, the deck was a roofed, screened-in porch. Since the roof was removed, the top layer of deck boards haven’t weathered well. So we’re replacing them with new, treated boards. We’re also spacing them a bit so we don’t get standing water on the deck any more.

We’re doing it in stages. We’ll tear up a section — a tedious process that involves various implements of destruction (hammers, flat bar, crow bar, my old cat’s paw I’ve had since I worked construction while in college, and occasionally my reciprocating saw). Then we clean and repaint the boards underneath. Then we buy enough lumber to do about ten rows. Then we repeat. We’re a little bit past halfway done now.

Of course, the last couple of weekends have been brutal, thanks to the weather. What, I must ask, will August be like if May is like this?here

But it’s made worse by the way the weather app on my iPhone keeps taunting me. I keep consulting it with the thought, “Let’s see whether the heat is going to try to kill me again today.”

For some reason, when I tap to call it up, it does not default to the weather where I am. Oh, no. The first thing I see is the weather in Dublin. So on Saturday, I was told the high would be 67, and the next day it would be 63, and the day after that 58, with a fine sprinkling of God’s generous rain. I could almost hear it add, “And would ye be after havin’ a Guinness after yer toil today, me lad?”

When we were in Ireland, the difference between the weather here and there was not that huge. A little cooler, and I was glad most days to have taken my water-resistant winter coat, although some days I took it off for a short while. Decent weather for the end of winter and start of spring.

But now, it’s like being on different planets. Ireland is the sane, normal, temperate planet. And West Columbia is on the one ruined by greenhouse gases. I’m reminded of the line from “The Matrix” to the effect that “It was us that scorched the sky.”

Last week was absurd for May. This coming week will be more so. Why must we live like this?

boards close

The shadow that hung over our time in Ireland

Of course, the threat of Brexit didn't keep us from having plenty of craic. Here a couple of ladies from our group celebrate with some local lads on the evening of March 17.

Of course, the threat of Brexit didn’t keep us from having plenty of craic. Here a couple of ladies from our group celebrate with some local lads on the evening of March 17.

While we were in Ireland recently (March 13-22), we didn’t follow news all that closely — and we never let it spoil our fun — but we were aware that the biggest story in the Republic’s media was Brexit. Not just because it was a big drama playing out right next door, but because it was an issue with ominous implications for Ireland itself.

It might even, we kept hearing, bring back the Troubles. Here’s a fairly succinct description of the situation:

Brexit, in its most basic sense, means that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will exit from the European Union and, as voters in the 2016 Brexit referendum were told, will “take control” of its border. Brexiteers promised that the U.K. would be able to restrict the free movement of goods and people—thus abandoning the central commitment of E.U. countries—and discard E.U. regulations.

But the U.K.’s borders also draw a line between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which is—and will remain—a member of the E.U. The Irish border meanders for some three hundred miles through towns, villages, and the countryside, separating twenty-six counties in the Republic from six counties in the North—a division that emerged from the Irish War of Independence and the creation of the Irish Free State, in 1922.

Here’s the problem: the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland are parties to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which relies on the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland. For example, the accords created common Irish cross-border institutions, such as a joint parliamentary association, and removed the checkpoints and watchtowers at which British soldiers had been stationed during three decades of strife known as the Troubles. During those years—chronicled in Patrick Radden Keefe’s new book, “Say Nothing”—the Irish Republican Army conducted a violent campaign to push the British out of Northern Ireland; unionist paramilitary groups, whose goal was to remain part of the U.K., committed their own acts of violence; and British forces were frequently complicit with the unionist paramilitaries and, at times, engaged in torture and illegal killings. Sinn Féin, the political party associated with the I.R.A., is also a party to the Good Friday Agreement, as are parties associated with unionist paramilitary organizations. The accords have worked, bringing peace.

This is the paradox and the tragedy: Brexit fundamentally conflicts with the Good Friday Agreement, but the U.K. government is in a state of denial about that conflict. It insists that it is committed both to Brexit and to the peace accord: Brexiteers claim that they can maintain a “frictionless” open border with the Republic of Ireland after Brexit—in the same place that the newly hardened border with the E.U. will be….

Ireland doesn’t need that kind of tension on its border with Ulster, a place that will be freshly seething over what Britain has wrought upon them. Britain doesn’t either. Yet the U.K. keeps staggering toward what increasingly looks like a ragged, disorganized exit, with little provision made for the aftermath. That’s what government by referendum gets you.

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting that beautiful country, and hope and pray its future isn’t like its past. That past was always with us, and not just because of our tour manager, a bluff, ruddy Englishman who sometimes seemed to forget that this American tour group contained a healthy proportion of Irish Catholics (you’d think my brother-in-law’s name, Patrick Cooper Phelan, would have been a reminder to him). He made a number of references to the IRA, only he always said “IRA terrorists.”

But that’s nothing compared to the carelessness of his countrymen who voted for Brexit.

A Kilkenny street scene...

A Kilkenny street scene…

Looking ahead: Have a nice St. Pat’s. I’ll be in Ireland

My brother-in-law, Patrick Cooper Phelan, in 2007.

My brother-in-law, Patrick Cooper Phelan, in 2007.

As long as I’m wishing you appropriate holiday sentiments, I hope y’all all have a great St. Patrick’s Day. I see tickets are available for the Five Points bash, and you get a discount if you buy them in advance.

I urge you to go to Yesterday’s and buy one, have a pint and remember me to Duncan and my other friends there.

However, I won’t be joining you on the day of. I’ll be in Ireland.

See how I just reeled that off so casually, as though going to Ireland is a small thing that I do all the time? Well, it isn’t. I’ve never been before. But my colleen and I will be boarding a plane for Dublin a week from today, and we’re kind of excited about it. We’ll spend a couple of days there, and on St. Paddy’s Day we’ll be in Waterford, which is my wife’s ancestral home. She’s a Phelan, which is to say she’s an Ó Faoláin.

We have tacitly agreed that while in Waterford, I won’t mention my descent from the guy the hard cider is named after. Although while in Dublin I plan to quietly go to the National Gallery and see his wedding picture, which depicts his taking Irish Princess Aoife Ní Diarmait as his bride. (And if anyone asks me, I’ll stress that I’m just as much descended from her as I am from the Norman. Ahem. So don’t blame me.)

And it promises to be a great St. Patrick’s Day, because my wife’s brother and his wife will be with us. And the most fun I ever had at the Five Points celebration was in 2007, with that same brother-in-law.

Having the two Phelans with me should give me all the cred I need among the Irish. Or so I hope.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to it. So much so that I started reading Ulysses a few weeks back, to get into the mood. But a couple of “chapters” in, I decided that was unnecessary, and that having read Dubliners is more than enough preparation….

 

‘Dooanld the Ready’

Vm3rI_8P

I’ve called your attention before to the hilarious Twitter feed Donaeld The Unready, the chronicles of a king from the era of “The Last Kingdom” and “Vikings” who goes about blustering and promising to “Make Mercia Great Again!”

Sample recent Tweet:

As you probably know, my first name is Donald. My first name comes in handy because I can always tell when I’m being addressed by people who don’t know me or anything about me — they call me “Donald.”

But I was really confused this morning. My wife and I are planning a trip to Ireland in a few months. We signed up for a package deal that my brother-in-law and his wife are also planning to go on, out of Memphis.

Today, I got an email from one of the organizers telling us that… well, I’m still trying to sort out what it’s telling us. Something about our flight to Heathrow and from there to Dublin, I think.

Anyway, it addressed me as “Dooanld.”

Is that an ancient Irish version of “Donald?” No, that would be “Domhnall.” (The name is of Gaelic origin, by the way.  It means “world ruler,” which tells you I have yet to come into my birthright, and I’m kind of getting impatient about that. I mean, don’t names mean anything anymore?)

Also, how is one to pronounce “Dooanld?”

Whatever. I’m looking forward to the trip. Call me Dooanld the Ready…

Actual photograph of Dooanld the Ready. OK, so technically it's an actor portraying my ancestor Ragnar Lothbrok. Best I could do...

Actual photograph of Dooanld the Ready. OK, so technically it’s an actor portraying my ancestor Ragnar Lothbrok. Best I could do…

The life of a gentleman is (or was) the life for me…

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To live any other way would be… insupportable…

Kay Packett, who has been known to comment here in the past, confessed on Facebook that “I want to live in an English novel, where, when anything goes wrong, someone immediately makes tea. I don’t even like tea.”

I responded immediately:

I’ll drink anything you like, as long as I’m a country gentleman with a competent man of business to deal with the running of the estate. I’ll be happy to serve as an MP as long I don’t have to think too hard, just vote the High Tory line. Will I have a membership at White’s, for when I’m in Town? If so, I’m in… Yeah, I’ve thought this out…

And I have thought it out; that’s the pathetic part. All that stuff was right there at my fingertips when the question arose.

And just so you don’t think I want to be a leech on society, I would also be happy to serve as a post captain in the Royal Navy during the same period (Regency era), commanding a frigate, with plenty of independent cruises and therefore opportunities for prize money…

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