A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: beerman

Dinosaur Bones and Bread Seeds

TP Meet-up Chicago 21-22 March 2012, Part 2

sunny 13 °C

Dawn broke to the sound of sweat, the sweat that was pouring over our bodies like Niagara Falls after a full year of rain. Rum seemed to ooze from my pores, filling the air with a stale Caribbean aroma. I managed to find the floor with some difficulty, and, sauntering to the door amidst the sweet rumbling snoring of my Dearest, I found the kitchen. Ah, coffee, nectar of the Gods themselves, would be just the ticket to ensure my bright-eyed and bushy tail-ness. Oh my God, this has to be the smallest coffee maker in the world. 4 cups? What good would that be to awaken my senses, to bring life back into my rum-swollen body? Oh well, when in Rome, make do and shut up. In a mere 3 hours, the machine had produced a sufficient quantity of nectar to satisfy a rather smallish dog. Fortunately, I felt like a rather smallish dog. Sipping the life-giving liquid, I noticed the faint aroma of carnitas. Memories flashed through my brain like like a Midwestern tornado attacking a trailer home. The previous evening, just prior to boarding the tramp steamer bound for Greece, I was standing on the back porch of the condo enjoying a finely rolled mini cigar. The neighbors were in full party mode. I waved with a smile, and they yelled over, asking if I liked carnitas. I nodded yes, and they waved me over, attempting to supplicate me with their evening's repast. Being a social animal and mildly drunk, I quickly grabbed a bottle of my best fermented malt beverage and waltzed over to the next yard. Gabriel, who had the good fortune of celebrating another year of life, was in full cooking mode, laboring over a large cauldron of boiling meat products. Family members had gathered by the hundreds, and many greeted me with wide smiles and interesting sayings uttered in Spanish, some of which I deftly translated to mean "Hello funny-shaped donkey person of cheese-based origin". My translation skills were keen. I handed Gabriel my beer and wished him a "Feliz Cumpleanos", which I surmised the family took to mean "please accept my cheese and live happily in this shoe box". At that moment, a rather short and stocky woman, who appeared to have seen many more days than I, handed me an overflowing plate of carnitas, rice, guacamole, and tortilla chips and proffered what I took to mean "eat this, it probably won't kill you". I tasted the succulent meat, and intense flavor washed over my dulled senses. Wow, good carnitas, I said in Spanish, though I think the family thought I said "you are more kind than armadillos". I left with a smile and many "gracias", and we boarded the tramp steamer for Greece.

Just after my 13th pot of mini-brewed coffee, Katie and my Darling awoke, slightly groggy and in need of caffeine. Soon, the computer devices came out, and we all sat and checked out the latest happenings on the interweb. In short order, His Peterness made use of the texting function on his "intelligent" telephony device and told Katie (as My Sweet and I are sadly lacking in intelligent telephony devices) that we should all meet at the Field Museum Hall of Ancient Creatures at 10:30 am. Katie was to be meeting a friend that day and sadly, would not join us in our archaeological expedition. And so, with much combing of hair and brushing of teeth, my Love and I boarded our dear Beaner and headed south to the museum.

Chicago has, since I lived there in the last century, completely re-developed the lake shore and museum campus area. All roads lead to what can only be described as a maze of lanes that lead directly to very expensive parking lots. Clever, these city designers. It was not unlike fishing, only we were the fish, and they hooked us and brought us on board.

A short 4 km walk out of the parking structure and we were in the Hall of Ancient Creatures. I called His Peterness on our dumb phone and left a message. "We're here, we'll meet you at Sue the Dinosaur". Succinct, to the point. Apparently He and His Family had become ensnared in the maze of Chicago parking facilities and with any luck, and using the latest in high-tech GPS Global Where-The-Hell-Am-I technology, They would soon make an appearance. Right then, time for a photo op.


My Sweet fends off the vicious, blood-sucking dinosaur, mocking it with diet-based epithets and impressive scowling. She was named Sue, not because the most intelligent minds of the scientific community believed she was a she (they don't actually know), but because they knew someone associated with the find, and her name was Sue. Scientists, you have to love their wit and ingenuity.

It was just at that moment in time that His Peterness and His Darling Family arrived. It was a Matrix-like moment - time stood still, people ceased moving, Sue winked from barren eye sockets, and we were again together. "Hi, how's the condo", I queried. "Don't ask, it's shite", exclaimed Her Janelleness. "That good, eh". "Sorry about that, but we're here now, what shall we explore first". "The loo". And so after a brief stop for potty, we were off. The Children desired to see Dinosaur Bones. Many pictures in front of Sue later, we made for the second floor where, the museum map promised, we would see many more bones. And so there were. Who knew that a natural history museum would be so full of stuffed animals and bone sculptures? How did these keen minded scientists really know how all the bones fit together? My own scientific curiosity was ablaze. Maybe that skeleton of a woolly mammoth really should look different, more sinister, more malevolent. Perhaps that extinct bison should really look like large herbivorous possum. Why are the horns in front on the head, and not on the behind? That would make for a fine defense against posterior-attacking predators. My years of scientific study had always taught me to question posterior-attacking predators, so I was in my element. But what I was wholly unprepared for, as years of scientific training doesn't cover this subject, was child wrangling.

Child wrangling requires a new definition of patience and persistence, not to mention stamina. I have never borne children, thanks to the gender Gods, but I was now learning just what it was like to be a long distance runner. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and my first step came at me like a raging tiger intent on making me its feast. I had never known that children could move so quickly, that their cat-like reflexes are honed at birth. I followed the children past aisle after aisle of displays, past stuffed animals and dioramas that became a blur. I felt driven to make sure that said children did not wander off and suddenly find themselves parent-less, for that condition is generally followed by panic and the desire to wet oneself. Wet children are nothing to be trifled with, as they become another species altogether, one bent not only on drying but finding nourishment.

My thousand mile journey had become a memory, as I had already journeyed many more miles after Miles. Mother and Father took this in stride, for they have acclimated and evolved as child chasers. My Sweetest and I had not evolved, and so it was time to dine, to feast on the offerings of the Hall of Ancient Creatures.

It was here that I made the most significant scientific discovery of the last several hundred years, one that I was astounded to learn no keen scientist before me had made. This revolutionary discovery could change scientific dogma as we know it. Bread seeds exist. It was during our sup, which reminded me of adult condors feeding their chicks little scraps of meat, that I made my world-changing discovery. Miles was terribly occupied, like his sister, consuming a rather large portion of bread. The child portion of macaroni and cheese held little interest, though it did bring back memories to me. I glanced over at Miles and found that he had a rather large number of bread crumbs on his shirt. I pointed this out to him, saying " Miles, you have bread seeds all over your shirt". Miles energetically replied "bread doesn't have seeds". I said "some bread does". He said "no it doesn't". I said "yes it does". This went on for some time, and I finally convinced the poor lad that if he didn't wipe the bread seeds off his shirt, they might sprout and he would have bread plants all over his body. Ah children, their little minds are so awash in curiosity, and I felt a bit devilish for planting (ha) this idea in his head. But as with most things in life, I couldn't resist. I did apologize profusely to Mother and Father for planting (ha) such a possibly strong notion in their baby's head, but it was amusing nonetheless. I would be curious to know if, at some distant point in the future, Miles would remember that moment and say the same thing to his children. At least I didn't tell him what my father told me at the same age, that I was brought to them by the garbage men.

And so it was time to leave the Hall of Ancient Creatures, since May had become desperately consumed with pushing every red button on every display to watch the video of how organic life began on this planet. Fascinating yes, but time waits for no child.

Katie had returned from visiting her friend, and had stopped along the way to procure the evening's meal, deftly hunting down two wild chickens, killing and plucking them, and obtaining sweets for dessert. Apparently the chicken hunt went well, as Katie showed no ill signs of the life and death struggle. Chocolate can put up one hell of a fight.

The evening's entertainment was to be a showdown between two titans of the cooking world, my Lovely the Talented, and His Peterness the Acknowledged, may the best chicken win. But wait, first there was to be a "Hangout on G+". Technically, this was to be the "TP Chicago Meet-up 2012 Hangout on G+", but who's quibbling with semantics. Schedules for this momentous event had been sent around the world, inviting all to join and "hangout". Computer devices were set up after all the laborious technical details had been accomplished. The first, and as it turns out only, TP member to join the hangout was She, She who lights up the life of Greater Canuckistan, Eastern Bureau, the Incomparable Tweety of Montreal. The hangout was a technical marvel, surpassed only by the moon landing and the invention of garlic sauce. We laughed, we nearly cried, we were joyous. The sudden appearance of the heretofore unseen Neal of Greater Northern Ireland and the charming Sarah of Greater Montreal made for much joy. Hangouts on G+ include the ability to superimpose pirate hats, monocles, scuba masks, and mustaches on the participants, and all were used extensively. There was cheer. The children were most bemused by their newfound virtual apparel. The hangout lasted for several months, and finally, after many days of tearful goodbyes and virtual hugs, it was time for the Grand Smackdown, the Dinner that would end all Dinners.

There was much jockeying for position in the cozy kitchen, not the least of which was by me, as I had been tasked with making the most crucial element of the Dinner, garlic mashed potatoes. I deftly beat the other cooks out of my way with my mashing fork, sparing few bloody noses in the process. This kitchen was poorly stocked with even the most basic of cooking utensils. But we made do. Katie was well occupied creating a dish of chocolate thingies, His Peterness and my Darling were well entrenched in cooking chicken, and the race was on, albeit with a bit of competitive spirit.


After much thrashing about and flailing of utensils, we finally sat together as a clan and began the consumption. The clan agreed, after some discussion and tossing of knives, that the chicken challenge was a tie - neither chef had overcome the other. I quietly sneeked into the Champions Chair via my exquisite potatoes. Janelle was so impressed that she went for seconds with a large spoon. I felt like Leonardo di Caprio on the fore deck of the Titanic - I was indeed on top of the world (or was that Jimmy Cagney?). The children were not as complimentary, offering a vicious critique of sage marinade versus curry rub. Damn kids, they can be so cruel. Where is Sponge Bob when you need him? Fortunately, Katie's delicious chocolate surprise dessert saved the day, and all strife was forgotten. Mmmmm, chocolate.....

Many more hours passed, and it was finally time for The Family to depart for their condo of Despair (shite-hole, I think was the description).

The consumption of many more adult beverages proceeded, and soon there was a call from Him. Were we still up for that game of Scrabble? Of course we were, silly Admin. And in a mere 12 minutes, He arrived again, mental dictionary in hand. Katie broke out the Scrabble board, conveniently packed for just such an occasion. Knowing the clever wiles of He, I began plying Him with the fermented malt beverages I have created. I knew that alcohol dims the senses.....trust me, I'm dim, so I know it works. We selected our tiles, and the intellectual challenge began. The players were determined to not be outdone, proffering such words as "the", and "Travellerspoint". Fortunately, Travellerspoint has 15 letters so that was out. Besides, it would have made a killer triple word score. Katie the Scrabble Shark handily won the first game (3,000,410 to 4) as she has done on many occasions at our humble abode, and through the rum-infused fog that was my mind, I think I almost won the second. Nearly. Maybe I did, maybe I didn't. Begrudgingly, His Peterness returned to His condo of shite. Many hugs and kisses.

We Three awoke the next day to a sumptuous breakfast prepared by Her Katieness - Pillsbury crescent rolls wrapping bacon (ham to our neighbors in the UK), eggs, and cheese, and baked to perfection. Oh my God - there is no meal that cannot be improved with bacon. We ate with abandon, knowing that our time was limited in the Condo. Packing our ten metric tonnes of luggage and many hugs ensued. Because I'm anal about these things, I scrubbed the Condo to absolute cleanliness, including the dishes, and we made for home.

I was content in the fact that I had left many bottles of fermented malt beverages for His Peterness and Her Janelleness to consume. They no doubt needed such sustenance to continue their evolution into Father and Mother, Keepers of the Children Who Know No Bounds.

We steered the Beaner west, toward that which was our home, Kalav Manor.

Our children were non-plussed. "Were you gone? We hadn't noticed". Thanks kids, we're touched by your sincerity.

And so endeth the Expedition of Dinosaur Bones and Bread Seeds.

Thank you dear readers for your attention and interest. You may now return your tray tables and seats to their upright positions.

Is this a crazy world, or what?

Posted by beerman 12:28 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Dinosaur Bones and Bread Seeds

TP Meet-up Chicago 21-22 March 2012, Part 1

sunny 12 °C

As with most of the trips we make abroad, our morning started with a raging gale and snow. It was a crisp, clear Saturday morning, and the birds were playfully chirping from the newly flowered lilac bushes. Though the temps were holding in the mid-10C's, the snow was blinding. I hitched up the team of feline sled pullers and made for the kitchen. Unruly bunch they were today, but a quick snap of the whip and they sprang out of their melancholic tongue bathing rituals and heaved for the coffee pot. Several hours later, we reached the Fountain of Caffeine, long sought by ancient mariners and groggy early morning adventurers. Silly fools, Mr. Coffee is more than just a life giver, He is indeed the nourisher of the soul. My Sweetest and I settled in for a few hours of telly (Jack Hanna's Top Ten Adventures, Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin, Born to Explore with Richard Wiese, and Sea Rescue with Sam Champion) before undertaking the laborious task of packing the ten metric tonne luggage. In no time, which in "packing ten metric tonnes of luggage" terms is about an hour, we loaded the Neon Avenger, AKA Beaner, and steered a course East, toward that Mecca of civilization, upstanding politics, and deep-dish pizza, Chicago.

Several weeks of hard driving later, navigating through thick jungles and wide rivers, we arrived in the Holy Land. Dammit, I knew we should have made a left at Albuquerque....

More weeks passed, and at last we arrived at the humble abode, the place we would call home for the next 70 and 3/4 hours, The Condo. We had done massive amounts of research to secure said abode, from consulting the Oracle of Google to utilizing the latest in high tech telephony. At last, we were here. An hour early no less. Now to simply wait for the owner to arrive and hand us the keys. The time passed slowly, but soon we were greeted with the huge smile and hilarious giggle of one of our Compatriots in Adventure, she who had braved the River of Despair (the Mississippi), crossed vast plains (Illinois), and beaten back the hordes of everyday commuters in the City of Big Shoulders. "Hi Katie, how was the drive?" And so the Adventure began.....

The next couple hours are fairly dull, so I'll skip them for the sake of your attention.

In the midst of socializing and excessive drinking with our Compatriot in Adventure Katie, we received a cryptic text message over the high tech telephony device. It was from the Man Himself, He Who Must Be Acknowledged, The Sage of TP, Peter of Melbourne. "Hey, where are you guys, we don't know where our condo is, but I think we can find yours." The text was actually a blend of seemingly jibberish-like symbols and magical talismans, but Katie deftly translated for us, using her years of deft translation experience: "They'll be here in about ten minutes, they still don't know where their condo is".

Right then, time to prepare for His Arrival. We cleansed in the healing waters of Chicago and anointed ourselves with semi-precious liquids of Caribbean origin (rum). All was in preparation for "The Arrival". And so it was, upon the 20th Hour of the Sacred Day of TP Meet-up-dom, in the Year of our Savior Captain Morgan, that They made Their appearance. Their silver chariot was a newer model Toyota Camry. Rather noble of Him to select such a humble mode of transport, but the kids fit nicely in the back seat.

Hours of gesticulating, hugging, smiling, and consuming of adult beverages passed. All was well with Mother Earth; strife had ceased, wars were over, and the populace consumed more. Then came Gnorman, and his rowdy band of Gnomads.


Fortunately, Gnorman was in a jovial mood. And there was feasting. Katie was busy translating ancient and highly provocative scrolls from her laptop computer device, and the children were well occupied in the transformation of Gnorman and his Gnomads into playthings.


Months passed, crops flourished, and the children grew at a fine rate. And so it was time to sup. My Dearest had procured "reservations" at a well-known local food establishment known as The Greek Islands, located just off the coast of Corfu. We boarded a tramp steamer with nearly all in tow, and in a mere 30 minutes we were transported to Greece itself. Not a bad feat for a tramp steamer. "Sir, you must wait here until your whole party has arrived, then see me and I will make you wait another 20 minutes". Grand folks these Greeks. At long last, we were seated. Our waiter, Francisco, was well versed in the supplication of Adventurers. "Benevolent Sir, please to bring us drink, followed by food stuffs including, but not limited to, cooked meat products". And so it was done. The children lapped up course after course of moussaka, though in all honestly, my gyros were a bit on the dry side, and there wasn't enough tzadziki. And yet the world stopped turning for 90 minutes. Life was good, birds sang, and dogs lay down with cats. Time to head back to the condo.

At home in Shangri-La, time again passed slowly. There was more drink. And plans were hatched to visit memorable places of memory on the very next day. His Peterness transported His Family to their now address-not-so-mysterious location, and we three Adventurers settled in for the night. Though I do believe there was more drinking.

Enshrouding ourselves in our yurt-like bedroom place, we slept. Not well, as it seems the Fire of the Gods was upon us. Why would anyone set a thermostat to 73F? Sleep was restless at best. Tomorrow would be another day of Adventure, and we would be ready, albeit a tad blurry.

Stay tuned to the next riveting Adventure, wherein we voyage to the Hall of Ancient Creatures and discover not only dinosaur bones, but the heretofore unknown existence of Bread Seeds. Really, it's going to be fun......

Posted by beerman 14:40 Archived in USA Tagged chicago 21 tp march meetup 2012 Comments (1)

Breathe, Breathe in the Eire, Episode 4

My mother didn't mention cannibals

rain 20 °C

Episode 4 of our adventure began with a dream sequence (insert dream sequence here).

My mind was again reeling. I felt suffocated, as if laying face down on an extraordinarily comfy pillow. The world had closed in around me, darkly stifling all sense and reason. Image after image of driving around Dublin (and I do mean "around" Dublin) in a fog crept into my subconscious. I was at the wheel of the trusty Hyundai, trying to get out of a car park at 2am. My Dearest was sitting in the passenger seat briskly chatting away with our cargo. There were 3 pieces of luggage in the back seat, oddly distorted into semi-human-like shapes. Giggling permeated the chat. Jason had a "Samsonite" plaque on his forehead. Phil had little wheels for legs and a handle sticking up out of the back of his collar. I couldn't help glancing into the rear-view mirror at length just to make sure no one would unpack themselves. This was made more difficult by the fact that I was driving at high speed through the most complex maze of car park I had ever seen. Which way is out, dammit? Oh look, there's a chicken holding a large neon "exit" sign in its beak. It must be that way. I veered to the right, through the pay barrier (throwing 300 euros into the basket) and made for the street. Wait, these are cobblestones. Am I on the sidewalk? No, I see headlights pointed at us, this must be the way. Screams of terror permeated the chat, with two pieces of luggage excitedly proclaiming that this was a one way street and I was going the wrong way. NO, BEAR LEFT. STOP!!!! TURN AROUND!!!!! Hey, I was only going one way, what's the problem? At that point, I had an epiphany. I opened my eyes, belched out something from TGIFridays that I had consumed earlier that night, and realized that, good God, they have the streets all backwards here. Why on Earth are all these cars coming right at us? I'm going the right way, what's wrong with these Dubliners???? Breaking through Jason's ever louder laughter, Nikki managed to get me to understand that I needed to turn around. Yes, all well and good, but where? The car park was a maze of one way streets, as was Dublin. I saw an opening, and my reflexes snapped into action. I slammed on the brakes, threw the shifter into reverse, backing over a smallish curb and an even smaller vehicle oddly parked, and veered back into traffic, this time going WITH everyone else. Sweet, now I'm in control. I glanced in the mirror again and noticed the ghostly white and terrified visage of Phil between Nikki and Jason and considered that perhaps I should back things down into third gear. OK, now we have to find Jason's hotel. Is it here in Dublin, or did you book in Galway? No, you git, it's just a few hundred kilometers to the left and by the river, said Jason. I can do that, so on I drove, keeping my one remaining open eye peeled for the river. One would think that a fairly sizable river would be easy to find. Not so, and in traditional Dublin style, it started to rain. Good Lord, now I can't see anything. The only thing I could do was speed up so we'd get there faster. The screams died down quickly, and chat resumed. Right, there it is, on the other side of the river, said Jason. This could be an issue, but I figured the Santa Fe was a rental and they wouldn't mind so much dredging it out of the river. I was game for giving it a shot, but the luggage in the back seat protested. Fine then, we'll find a bridge. For a city that has a river running right through the heart of it, Dublin had surprisingly few bridges to drive over, at least at the moment. I kept the images of doing an Evel Knievel in a rocket powered Hyundai over the River Liffey, but thought better of it. I'd probably have to pay a cleaning deposit anyway, and algae is difficult to clean out of the carburetor.

My eyes scanned the dashboard for a rocket thruster button. Shit, cheap rental, none to be had. We have these things in the States you know. For some reason, the giggling got louder. And ever so suddenly, a drivable bridge appeared. I slipped the transmission into 5th gear and floored it, launching us over the bridge and to eventual safety, or at least to the front door of Jason's hotel. Say, nice place you booked here. And it was only 300 euros a night, good deal there mate. Ryder Cup chap, I had no choice, Jason reasoned. Right then, here we are, and slamming on the brakes just shy of the reception desk, I let Jason out. Say Bud, while you're out having a fag, could you brush the broken shards of front door glass off the bonnet? Thanks ever so much. And we bid the wayward Kiwi farewell for the night. Backing out of the lobby, I laid down two perfect lines of black rubber and headed back into town. Phil had long since gone into cardiac arrest, but Nikki was there with the emergency oxygen bottle and was in the process of reviving him. Some days passed before I could find the bridge across the river again, and soon we dropped off Phil at his apartment. Nikki was next, so north I headed towards Swords. Warp 8....engage. I managed to get in a quick nap on the way, and awoke refreshed at Nikki's doorstep. Right then (giggle giggle), you remember how to get back to the hotel Beerman? Of course, my keen sense of time travel is alive. Goodnight then, see you tomorrow. 2007 had rolled around by the time we made it back to the Tulip Inn. We got lost only once, in a maze of shopping mall parking spots. Damn, when did they build this, I don't remember it being here this morning?

Flash forward to Saturday morning (end dream sequence).

Episode 4 began with me finding a large wad of cotton well stuffed into my mouth. My Love was already awake and showering. I crawled into the bath and promptly dropped my head into the sink, flowing cooling water over my eyes. Say Love, did I hit anything with the chariot last night? No Dearest, you were mostly good, save for driving through the lobby of Jason's hotel, but they didn't seem to notice. Whew, good thing then. Yes Dearest, you were good at avoiding the local Constabulary. So then, what's on today's menu, after of course the traditional cooked meat products and many pots of hot coffee? Don't you remember Dear, we're to meet everyone at either Doyle's or Foley's and drink and watch the Ryder Cup. My God, tell me you're kidding. I thought I drank all of Ireland's beer last night. Hardly Poopsie, but you did put up a good effort.

The restaurant was a pleasant diversion from the pounding in my head. "Oh, yer Americans then. Can I get you some bacon and eggs and deep-fried blood products, exclaimed the waitress". Yes please, except substitute rashers for ham and skip the blood, thanks. And coffee. No wait, keep the blood, as I might be able to infuse some of it into my body and live again.

And we were off to pick up Nikki. The city was alive with Saturday shoppers driving along the sidewalks and through the stores. Sort of gave a new meaning to "drive-through". We parked just outside of Paris and began the long march to Foley's, or Doyle's. By the time we got there, my feet had been worn off to the ankles. That's ok, I didn't like those shoes anyway....

Today was the day. The final matches of the Ryder Cup were well underway and the American team had already packed up and gone home. It would be a tough go today, what with none of the American team actually playing golf. Jason was positively glowing, and in between pints and smokes, he kept rubbing in the fact that America would lose. Rich threw in his two cents, blabbering something in Welsh that roughly translated to "I'd urinate on Cleveland but I hate to fly". America was witnessing the depravity that Europeans are so well known for: rubbing in a victory. Bastards, didn't we save your butts in the big war? Where's the love now? It's not our fault Tiger Woods laid the entire Dublin School for Wayward Girls last night and he can't make a putt. Minutes turned to hours, and hours turned to months, or so it seemed. Finally, the Daily Mail made it official: America Loses: Ha Ha. My Love was ever so gracious in paying her lost wager to the Kiwi-who-can't-understand-real-football. And just to make it proper, we all signed the $5 bill before Jason could buy another pint with it. He probably still has it, sitting in a gold gilt frame adorning his living room wall. From this point on, everything became fuzzy again, save for an inflatable sheep that was to be Rich's new wife. I do recall autographing Rich's wife, as did the rest of the bar. Nikki kept giggling, Jason was floating on his ego, Phil was eagerly planning our route through the Emerald Isle, Greg was doing unspeakable things to the sheep, Rich was texting for a date that night, and my love was sodden with drink. I would have been sober as a church mouse save for the 489 empty pint glasses in front of me. The acrid bitterness of Sir Arthur's brew hung thickly in my mouth, sparing me the indignity of realizing that I couldn't lift my head off the table. We had adventure ahead of us, for tomorrow we would face the savage countryside. This was my only true memory of the evening, the joy of snuffing out the life of an overzealous Kiwi:


Sleep came swiftly that night as I drove back to the hotel. I managed to park on the fifth floor just outside our room, thank God there wouldn't be another hike to the bed. As my head hit the pillow, dreams of wild pygmies in pubs wound through my subconscious. Lead on MacDuff, and let he who not drinketh first be damned!!!!!

Stay tuned for Episode 5, wherein Phil leads us to ruins. And more ruins. And yet more ruins. Thank you for your attention, please queue up and leave the theater.

Posted by beerman 11:45 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Breathe, Breathe in the Eire, Episode 3

My mother didn't mention cannibals

rain 21 °C

I might have missed a day in here, but my memory is not what it once was. I knew we were in Ireland....

It was a fitful night of sleep, as it tends to be when one is face down for 6 hours, nose crushed into an extraordinarily fluffy pillow, little bits of drool wetting the edges of the cotton comfort. Light streams of consciousness came to me all at once. Perhaps it was my Dearest hopping up and down on the bed on all fours. "We're in Ireland....we're in Ireland....". Or perhaps it was the fact I had to tinkle. 38 pints of Guinness can do that to a man. Between hops from my lovely, I rolled out of bed and hit the floor with a thud. Face down. This would have proven quite painful but for the extraordinarily cushy carpeting swathing our entire room, walls included. Plus, I seemed to have no pain receptors active in my brain. The wind was nigh howling through the window, bringing back memories of a certain giant squid in Panama flailing against our patio door. My senses snapped into action, and my body more or less followed them, crab-walking to the bath. Standing at the loo, I flashed back to an old Coca-Cola commercial.......they said Coke was "the pause that refreshes". I think not, for this indeed had always been the pause that refreshed me the most. Silly advertisers. My keen sense again snapped, alerting me to the fact that I was standing in the tub. Oh well, who hasn't peed in the tub at one point or another?

My Dearest hopped into the bath at that point, reminding me that we had adventure yet to come today. Of course my Shining Light, and I am again up to the task, right after many strong coffees and perhaps some cooked meat products. Ireland is well known for it's cooked meat products, most notably bacon, which in my limited world is really ham. I love ham. Give me all you've got, and more coffee please. In the hotel restaurant, we gorged ourselves, though my brain pan was notably absent, which might have explained the bits of well-cooked bacon now adorning my lap. Hey, when in Rome....

Adventure was nigh, so my Love and I hoisted ourselves into the trusty Hyundai and made for Nikki's house. Damn, I should have paid ever so slightly more attention where I was going last night, though in my drink addled state, and the fact that it was very dark last night, it wouldn't have mattered. I think it's that way Honey Love, pronounced the hopper. Right then, that's where we shall go. We drove to the outskirts of Galway before we realized that we might have missed the roundabout exit. Turning back, we made for Nikki's. A mere 4 hours later, we pulled into her drive. By God, this looks familiar. And sure enough, it was. We knocked on 16 different doors before we finally found the right house. They did all look somewhat similar, so after apologizing to half the neighborhood, Nikki finally answered the door. We should have honestly known this was the right place by the hundreds of empty wine and Bailey's bottles strewn about. I'm not saying Nikki and her Love Arjan drink excessively, just that they never threw out those bottles. This could easily have been a few nights drinking for us, and possibly them, or it could have been many months. One will never know, as we were too busy hugging and kissing to ask. We didn't get the chance to see Arjan then, as he was hiding in the shower. Well, maybe he was actually showering; again, we didn't ask. It was time to leave, as we had a meet-up to attend at Trinity Library.

Peeling out into traffic, Nikki immediately took charge. A litany of driving directions rang out, and soon we were headed downtown. We had a mission, one that would take us to the deepest, darkest depths of Dublin, amongst people we had never met. I felt like Sir Henry Stanley in search of Dr. David Livingstone, forging our way through the jungle that was Dublin traffic. The pedestrians didn't seem to mind so much as I swung my machete back and forth out the window, casting them aside as rag dolls to better get through. It was easier too, as with right-hand drive, my right arm was free to swing away. Imagination can have its benefits.

We found Trinity College, home to the famous library, with very little effort. Parking was again our greatest challenge. I spied another small car with the little red "L" in the back window and parked atop it. Ha, and they've already paid the meter. Darling Nikki and my Love heaved themselves out the doors, whilst I plucked the parking stub from the broken car beneath us and placed it on our dash. This is city life....get used to it. Oh look, it's only 36 km to the library. Not a problem, so we hitched up our pants and hiked onward.

Some days later, I can't remember how many through the cloud that is my memory, we arrived at Trinity College Library. Hmm, plenty of people about, but no one bearing the dark mark of a TPer. They must be here somewhere. The only logical thing to do was stop, stand there innocently, and have a smoke. We were half tempted to hoist a sign stating "Lost TP Party, Meet Here", but thought better of it. Someone would be along shortly. And so our wish was granted, as less than 14 hours later, the first Dark Marks began to appear. And there was rejoicing. Who are you again? Ah, yes, Phil, and Jason, and the ever elusive Rich, thought to have been lost years before to the wiles of the Amazon Womens Council of Central Wales. It turns out Rich had been saved by his trusty Swiss Army Condoms, and was so able to attend. There was rejoicing again, as somehow, we had all managed to be in the right place at the right time, in front of this bastion of knowledge that had existed since before Christ was a lad. Lots of history, that's what I'm saying. We laughed, we cried (mostly because we had been standing in a typical Irish mist for 3 hours), and we greeted each other as total strangers. Life was good. And we even managed to stand still long enough for a photo opportunity:


Left to right, back row: Nikki, Ed, Jason, Chris, Heather, My Love, Me
Left to right, front row: Greg, Rich, Phil

We instantly knew that these were our kind of people. Well, maybe not instantly, that epiphany might have come many hours later at the pub(s), when people are at their most free and uninhibited. For Europeans, and one Canadian, they looked remarkably like us....two legs, two arms, one head, ten toes (though Jason later admitted to 12 toes....another story for another blog). They were funny, and so were we. But everyone says that.

Nikki suggested that we find the car park, the one that stays open past 10pm. Excellent idea, as we would prefer not to walk the 390 km back to the hotel later. My Darling, Nikki Dearest, and I piled into the Santa Fe and headed off, leaving the rest of our intrepid troupe to make their way to the Guinness Storehouse, that marvel of modern engineering and brewing. Besides, they were all used to hiking. My Love and I were not a "hiking crowd", as they say. We found the car park and realized that ever so suddenly, we were to become a hiking crowd. Look, there it is, 40 km past Trinity Church, over the River Liffey, past time and space itself, exclaimed Nikki. Um, we're supposed to meet the group in another galaxy, said I? No silly, it's just up ahead a pace, said Nikki. Right then, we're off again. We must have been off, as this was more than a simple hike across Antarctica. And of course, in typical Irish tradition, it started to rain.....

Weeks of strong hiking later, the three of us arrived at the Guinness Storehouse. And, to no real surprise, none of our group was there. Nikki was up to the challenge, and quickly texted Jason "where the hell are you guys?" Jason, with his astonishingly keen sense of timing, replied 6 days later stating that it was raining. No shit. The group had stopped at the Brazen Head, Dublin's oldest pub, for a bit of a wee drink. No shit again. Hiking back through the marshes along the River Liffey, past numerous couples shagging in back alleys (nice touch), we arrived at the Brazen Head. Yes, a bit of refreshment is in order my Dearest. Perhaps a snack as well, as we last consumed sustenance 3 years ago at the car park. Oh look, there they are, our group of intrepid TPers, casually consuming mass quantities of beer. We were greeted by our comrades as if we had been lost in the jungles of South East Asia during WWII. Fancy a pint then, asked Jason? Thank you Mr. Obvious, what gave it away? And so we drank. And we ate. And we were sated. Some months went by, and eventually we poured our whole group out the door and headed for the tour to come. A short 40 km ahead lay the museum that was Guinness. Rather modern it was. We queued up and paid our 34,000 Euros for the tour, and were suddenly face to face with history. It was very nearly on this very spot that 300,000 years ago, Sir Arthur Guinness first had his first hangover. Right over there, next to the souvenir shot glasses and stout t-shirts.

This picture was virtually the only thing I remember from the whole tour:


OK, this one too:


Being a brew master by trade, I attempted to explain to our group how beer is really made......some malted barley, some hops, water, yeast, and a little love. They would have none of it. I was dejected. My only solace came at the very top of the tour, whence we were allowed to imbibe in a pint of the black gold. Say, nice view of the city from up here. I was easily distracted. Not a bad tour for 34,000 Euros. "It's rubbish", proclaimed Jason, "why I've paid less for this in Botswana". Jason was not easily distracted.

The tour had come to an end, and, slightly weepy at having been witness to the history of a fellow brewer, I bade farewell to Sir Arthur, quietly wondering who came up with the idea of injecting nitrogen into a 4% alcohol beer. We brew masters do that.

The group was off, having struggled past the Guinness ashtrays and Guinness items of apparel, and were headed for, where else, another pub. Right then, back to Foley's Bar, as we now had a history with them.

As I have previously said, the Ryder Cup was in full swing at the K Club. Jason and my Love had made a small bet of USD$5 versus GBP3000 on who would be the victor. Back at Foley's, the bartender was in a ripe mood. "Oh, Americans are ye?" The match play at the golf outing was in full swing, and we Americans were quite well behind. No matter, there were pints in need of consumption. And we consumed.

It was time for dinner, and Heather, a non-Dubliner, had chosen a uniquely Irish place to meet: TGIFridays. In her defense, it was likely the only place that could have handled this rowdy group. American chain restaurants have the strictest training for their employees on how to handle groups like ours: stun guns, if necessary, and plenty of alcohol. We made merry, and Ed made the day with a specially prepared cake for just this occasion:


And we ate, and made more merry:


Weeks of feasting finally came to an end, and there was only one thing on the minds of this group: find a pub. Who'd have guessed, that this group would be looking for more alcohol? Temple Bar, that was where we should be. So off we hiked, past tourists and alley-way shaggers, past drunken hen parties complete with inebriated hens walking barefoot on cobblestones holding their high heels, to eventually find Temple Bar. Not unlike Rush Street in Chicago, and many other bar spots in major cities around the world, Temple Bar was a marvel of modern inebriation and wanton hope, hope that one might find a good shag for the night and still be able to sneak away the next morning with one's dignity intact. Crazy, hopeful world this is. Needless to say, we drank our way through the evening.

Many more days passed, and eventually we made it back to the car park located just east of Outer Mongolia. Peacefully seated behind the wheel with eyes fully closed, I steered out into the night traffic. Back to the hotel, and all was well.

Sleep came quickly that night. The days events slowly, yet fuzzily, unfolded before my eyes, then vanished as if made of smoke. All went black. The day was a success of adventure, melding the joy of meeting new people with the insanity of drinking to excess. Life was good.

Stay tuned for Episode 4, wherein at this point I cannot honestly remember what happened, but I promise to make it a good story. I remember strangling Jason, but that's about it......

Posted by beerman 13:39 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Breathe, Breathe in the Eire, Episode 2

My mother didn't mention cannibals

semi-overcast 20 °C

Now where were we? Oh yes, at the abandoned car hire, with our spacious new Hyundai Santa Fe. The five of us stood there, breathing in the Eire, marveling at our trusty steed. (Giggle giggle), did you guys bring enough luggage, whispered Nikki? My Dearest, would you be kind enough to explain to the Giggler that we always travel this light whilst I pack the car? Besides, the iPod battery was dead and that should make things considerably lighter.

My keen organizational skills were more than a match for the tiny boot. It was a mere 14 hours later that we all managed to pile in and prepare for takeoff. Dearest, would you change places with me? The steering wheel has been placed on the wrong side of this vehicle. Of course Honey Bunch, I was wondering how long it would take you to notice. Nikki, Phil, and Greg quietly laughed their asses off in the back seat, trying their hardest not to mock the driver in whose hands they had placed their lives. Right, seatbelts on everybody, I’m going to make a break for it. I peeled out of the lot in fourth gear (damn left hand stick shift will take some getting used to…), and effortlessly drove over two meridians, one Volkswagon Beetle, three pedestrians, and made for the M1, or whatever the name of the damn highway was. Aren’t they all the M1 over here? You’re not in the US anymore Beerman, eh, exclaimed Greg. Phil had long since passed out from lack of oxygen in the back seat; hands clenched on the seatbelt, and was quietly drooling on his shirt. No, (giggle giggle), we have different numbering systems here, came the voice of reason. You’ll want to bear left and head north up R132 which is Dublin Road, and continue ahead trying to not hit anything whilst finding Nevinstown West, then turn right at Nevinstown Lane and there is your hotel, the lovely Tulip Inn. A short ride later, there it was, the lovely Tulip Inn. I pulled into the car park, narrowly missing several bicycles and some stray sheep, and ceremoniously parked in front of the reception door, with only one wheel fully placed on the curb. This was easy; I can’t wait for another 10 days of this. I popped open the boot just as the bellman came out of the front door. He could barely contain his enthusiasm at my excellent parking job, so much so that he and Nikki joined together in a harmonious chorus of giggles. With a typical sense of Irish humor, he asked if we were to stay for a lifetime. Say, you don’t have a sister in the States who works at the airport, do you? Very well Sir, I’ll just be off to find a lorry to mule your baggage up to your room. Please kind Sir, they are not baggage, they are our friends here to make merry with us in your fine country. Very good Sir, but I was actually referring to the 4 metric tonnes of expertly packed luggage haphazardly jammed into the back of this very sturdy Hyundai Santa Fe. Ha, yes of course, I knew that. Lead on MacDuff. Amusing Sir, but MacDuff was Danish, my name is Hector, please follow me. Greg was kind enough to fish the emergency oxygen bottle and mask out of the boot and revive Phil, and we made for the reception desk. Hardy adventurers we were. The baggage lorry deposited us at the counter, and the friendly clerk began with “Welcome Sir, here for a lifetime, are we?” This joke was getting old fast, but onward we proceeded. Arriving at the luxuriously laid-out room, I tipped the 14 bellmen and settled in to unpack. Unpack? No, we have to get downtown, chimed Phil. There are pubs awaiting us, and this adventure has only just begun. Right then, let’s be off…..but first, a tinkle. I’ve been holding it since Chicago, and I need to make room for the upcoming Guinness. And so we all tinkled.

Cramming back into the car, we set off for downtown, eager to consume mass quantities of black gold and see some sights. Now (giggle giggle), you’ll want to bear left and head down the R132 again, at the roundabout, get onto Swords Road which turns into the N1 E1, past Trinity College, then right onto Upper Merrion Street until you hit Baggot Street (and when I say “hit”, I don’t mean that literally), and there we are at Foley’s Bar!!!! My mind was reeling. I had been occupied breathing in the Eire, but these new directions were nigh more than I could handle, so I just punched it, lurching out into the unknown. It was surprisingly easy driving in Dublin, and the fact that the Hyundai could effortlessly drive over nearly any obstacle made it all the more enjoyable. I could scarcely hear the panicked screams coming from the back seat. “NO, BEAR LEFT, NOW RIGHT AND STRAIGHT AHEAD.” I could get used to this. It was a mere 36 hours and 485 km until we reached Foley’s Bar. Now the real challenge lay ahead….finding a parking spot. Again, the trusty Hyundai was up to the task, and I casually parked atop a small Fiat with a small red “L” pasted on the back window, just 3 miles from Foley’s. Damn Learners, learn how to park, out of my way if necessary. Right then, it’s cocktail time. A short stroll, a few smokes, and we were there. Foley’s Bar is one of those charming Dublin pubs that makes you feel at home almost from the moment you walk in the door. My compatriots found a nice table for 46, and Phil and I sauntered to the bar to purvey liquid refreshment for us all. Good day my good man, I’d like 40 pints of your finest Guinness, I proclaimed to the barman. “Oh, yer Americans then, exclaimed the kind Sir”. It was to be the mantra that followed us along our entire adventure on the Emerald Isle……oh, yer Americans then. Apparently, I had “American here” tattooed on my forehead. Perhaps it was my garb. Not a lot of Hawaiian shirts on the Emerald Isle.

Dublin had recently adopted a “no smoking in pubs” policy, which forced us to step outside every now and then for a quickie (so to speak). It was during one of these breaks, while Nikki was furiously texting Jason about where we were, that the man himself made an appearance. My Dearest and I were marveling at the sights and sounds around us, the bustle of urban life all around, when Jason came walking up to us, fag in one hand and mobile in the other. You Beerman and Isadora, he asked? Indeed we are my good man, but sorry, we’re fresh out of spare change. No you git, I’m Jase007, and I’m here for the meet-up. Phew, that’s a relief; I thought you were another beggar asking if we were Americans. Come inside, let’s drink!! And so we drank. And drank. And chatted. And drank some more. The barman had given up asking if we were Americans and simply brought pint after pint of Guinness. I believe we spent somewhere in the vicinity of the Gross National Product of Bolivia that night just on drink alone, with some pub grub on the side. Still, the evening was a success, as it only took us 4 hours to convince Nikki and Jason that it was indeed Foley’s and not Doyle’s where we were to meet. Perhaps the alcohol had dimmed our senses, though I had not seen any chickens of late, so I knew it wasn’t my travel deficit disorder. I blame Sir Arthur Guinness, and as I am a fellow brew master, I can do that. We brew people are an odd lot.

Late into the evening, we dropped Greg off at his hostel, Phil back at his apartment, and Nikki back at her home. Jason was on his own. Miraculously, we didn’t hit much of any substance on our way back to the hotel, as drink driving is considered a no-no in Ireland, especially if you’re American. My Love and I drifted off to sleep with little effort, quietly anticipating hiking throughout greater Dublin in search of the perfect pint. Oh, and meeting more wayward TPers. That would be good too.

Stay tunes for Episode Three, wherein we do indeed hike for many kilometers and search every pub on every block for that elusive perfect pint. You may now return your seats to an upright position and stow your tray tables. Thank you.

Posted by beerman 09:11 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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