Na Zdravie!: Part 2

August 17, 2010

The festival closed down early, so the throng of revelers descended on the poor town of Dun Laoghaire mad with hunger. There were lines everywhere, but none more so than at the off-license liquor store which wound around the block. We walked up the hill toward the center of town and I hit it off with a couple tech guys: Julian a tall strapping Australian who was dating the lovely Judith, and his jovial co-worker Sam (who I believe was Irish, but sounded suspiciously Australian). We opted for fish and chips which had the shortest wait, but even then our party broke apart as others went in search of shorter queues.

We all met up again in front of a local shop where we sat and chatted, eating and smoking. A small, wiry Irishman with a shaved head (not looking unlike Milan2) came up to the tallest of our party, Granko, and snarled drunkenly, "You're sittin' in my seat." At first we all thought he was merely being coy, but he adamantly insisted Granko had taken his seat. Granko explained congenially in a heavy accent that we had been here a while and that this couldn't possibly be his seat. The Irishmen railed that he had paid for his food and this was always his seat. Amused, Granko pointed out that, "Well, there are 8 of us and 1 of you." This set the Irishman off. "I don't care how many you are. You think I care? I'll kill each and every one of you. Don't worry, I'll kill you all quickly, except you..." He turned back to Granko. "I'll kill you sloooowly."

We laughed heartily over the distinction which inflamed the Irishman further. Granko is around 6'4" and a former security guard at Google. Though thin and wearing glasses, he didn't look like someone you'd opt to mess with unless you were an intoxicated Irishman or had mental problems or both. After exchanging some more words so as not to sacrifice too much dignity, Granko graciously gave up his seat and we walked away while Daniella berated us for not walking away earlier. It's well known that people get knifed in Ireland all of the time for lesser misunderstandings. There have been 100 fatal stabbings since 2003 in Ireland and a quarter of these were foreign nationals. Most were Eastern European.

As we walked back down to the port the city was exploding. Lines were queued up around nightclubs and women walked by in soaring heels and strapless dresses. Some of the girls looked young, in their mid-teens. "That one's almost worth the jail time," Sam muttered as we stood in awe of the shortness of passing skirts. We stood on the corner discussing the best strategy to integrate into the madness.

"Hey, isn't that Milan?"

We looked across the road to see Milan2 sitting on a stone wall, his knees to his chest, looking dazed and a little scared. Lucy and Daniella went to go talk to him as we watched hungry men with turned heads and laughing women. A tan, bleach-blond girl in a see-through white dress and white thong walked by prompting speculation that she was Russian. "Эй, ты русский? Я говорю на русском!" She walked up the block without turning. Ten minutes later she walked by again.

Milan2 had been convinced to rejoin the group. He walked up and looked down shyly, "I'm sorry. Sometimes I get a little too much, too intense." "Oh, don't worry. I've been there. I completely understand." He smiled appreciatively.

It was decided we would go back to Julian and Judith's who have a place across the road from the harbor. We entered into a charming little apartment with a view of docked sailboats and sat around the table. They were impeccable hosts bringing beer and vodka, delicious ouzo, coffee, and tea. Judith made popcorn and we sat around and talked with people filtering out leisurely to the porch to smoke. I realized suddenly that I was in the midst of some European fantasy I'd had for years, some mixture of my mother's Peace Corp stories and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. strangely perfect, sitting around with these lovely accents, passing around shots, talking and laughing. A bidet sitting serenely in one corner of the bathroom.

Milan2, feeling overly thoughtful in his drug-induced state, talked to me of life, death, and what it meant to be American.

"You Americans... you left behind your home country. You left behind and never looked back. You don't even know any of your history."

"It's largely true," I admitted, "though my family has been able to trace back at least some basic ancestry on my mother's side. They were Polish on the German border.

Milan looked at me suspiciously. "Let me look at you." He looked me up in down. "No, you're not Polish. You don't look Polish."

I shrugged. "Perhaps, I got more of the German side."

He nodded. "Americans... you have no history. No accomplishments. You were never the first to do anything! You only follow the Europeans."

"Hmmm... maybe... maybe..." I replied attempting to mollify him. "Except, of course, the iPhone. You have to admit we did come up with the iPhone first."

"Oh. Yeah, yeah, okay that's true. The iPhone."

"And also modern air conditioning. We came up with that."

"Hmmm... yeah, I give you that."

"And what about the Internet?" someone chimed in. The Americans invented the Internet."

"Oh, the Internet," Milan2 grumbled.

"And the car? The telephone. What about Google?" Suddenly, I felt like I was in that scene from The Life of Brian, "What 'ave the bloody Romans ever done for us anyway? Nothing!"

Someone reminded us that the last train left at midnight and we scampered across the road in various states of intoxication and merriment. The turnstiles were open to accommodate the crush of people and we hurried on to the DART to be hurled northward into the night back to Dublin.


-cj- said...

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