Friday, October 5, 2012


A few days after I got off the boat, I went to Ireland. Suddenly, I no longer worked on a cruise ship. Instead I was a professional story teller. For a week.
The day I was to leave Seattle, I slept peacefully through my flight to Chicago, having misread my itinerary. I begged and cajoled with delightfully accented Aer Lingus employees, shelled out a whole lot of money, wept at the counter at Sea-Tac until they grudgingly allowed me onto the next flight without the requisite 90 minute early arrival for international flights, raced through security, last one on the flight, dashed through Chicago in a cartoonish frenzy until I finally slumped, a deflated balloon, into my seat on the flight to Dublin.

A cheerful "Heading to Ireland, wish me luck!" Facebook status masked the whole thing and nobody knew what a terrific ball of incompetence I was. Facebook, you little wall of white lies, you're so magical. The little back of seat entertainment system cheered me immensely, I watched a dozen movies and all was well. Except for that, with no time to pack, I had no clothes or shoes or books or anything, no toothbrush. I'd stuffed a suitcase with whatever had been lying on the floor of Andrew's garage which turned out to be a lot of long underwear- useless.
Then came rainy Dublin and the first radio interview, many teas and jogs around the block to keep myself awake and I finally ended up in Dungarvan, where I succumbed to a fierce case of jet lag and overall jet-confusion.
Each day I woke up deep into the afternoon, completely sideways in my big white hotel bed. I wasn't alone- my sister, Anna, and her Italian guitar player Danielle and his friend Drea were sharing a guest cottage with me.
Thank goodness, because I was a helpless being with no clothes and I was never certain what day it was. Each afternoon, I'd dress out of my sister's suitcase, stab myself in the eye with an eye pencil, wander into a cafe in town and prepare for my performances by jotting down notes and drinking strangely thick cappuccinos and trying to pep-talk myself out of nerves.
The writing calmed me down, but nothing soothed me like walking alone up and down the streets of  Dungarvan. A cold, wet, autumn wind breathed through the streets where bright, multi-colored shops piled up against one another like dominoes. The houses looked like music boxes. To get from one part of town to the next you walked across the cobbled town square and through dark alleyways lined by crumbling castles. There were tiny boats moored at the edge of town, and the pubs were all named The Anchor and Lady Belle and The Moorings.
A walk to the outskirts of town brought you to a checkerboard of green fields and purple thistles that rolled straight into the ocean, and in the distance glowed the pointed lights of town so small and insular that the kids all grew up speaking only Irish. I'll admit, even though I've been to Ireland before, I didn't really know that Irish was a language that people spoke. I thought people just sang it.
Anna and I explored together when we could, both of us kept very busy with the festival and interviews and me being asleep until after noon. She sang during opening night of the festival and I sat with her backstage with a few other musicians and the Irish storytellers. I drank as much wine and French cider as possible and tried not to think about the next day, the first of my four shows. My stomach tightened at the thought- what if nobody shows up? I forbid Anna to attend, wanting to save her the disappointment of seeing me perform to an empty room, if that was the case. It very well could be,  I had no idea, and neither did the festival director, who was tall and very serious, a notable genius who may have lived inside of a grandfather clock. He had taken a great chance by inviting me, and I so very much wanted it to work out well.  
At the very least, I assured myself in the black painted backstage of the town theater, I got myself here, and that is worth noting. Somehow my writing and my incessant need to tell stories got me all the way to Ireland and even paid me to be here, even though I almost blew it at the starting gate and I don't have any underwear.  All I can possibly do now is to tell an entertaining story and that much- even if I'm a whirling ball of incompetence in all the other things- that much I know I can do. 


Anonymous said...

I laughed so hard when i read your story on instagram, so glad you made the flight!!

-A new reader

Kathy Kelley said...

Thanks for sharing some images of Dungarvan. My family originated in the area, not sure but think somewhere around the mid-1700's. I wish you had you camera with you! Congrats on a successful tour!

Kathy Kelley said...

Thanks so much for sharing pictures from Dungarvan. I wish you had packed your camera- but you still got some amazing shots with your phone! My family originated from the area in the mid 1700's. Congrats on a successful festival!