Castles & Abbeys & Jigs, oh my—Southern Ireland

I’ve been everywhere, man
I’ve been everywhere, man
Crossed the deserts bare, man
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man
Travel, I’ve had my share, man
I’ve been everywhere

–Johnny Cash, played on our Backroads tour bus

You’re very welcome to my final blog about our 16 day trip around the Emerald Isle – I became fond of that Irish expression so much warmer than the generic “Welcome to…”. We went to Ireland to pursue an authentic experience of the culture and the forty shades of green and were not disappointed. Across the southern half of the country, we traversed lakes and mountains, wandered through castles and ruins aplenty, and soaked up enough local music to keep my feet tapping days later.

Not another bl*dy castle

20170510 kilkenny castle
Kilkenny Castle

It became the standing joke of our little tour bus by the time we had gone in and out of Kilronan Castle, Kilkenny Castle, and Blarney Castle. But American history is too young for castles, so we find them fascinating. We do have forts among our American National Parks, so I found Charles Fort Kinsale Harbor a more familiar site. The fort design is a classic star shape with well protected views of the picturesque harbor. My favorite view, however, was of the local Cork resident practicing his hurling with his dog.

20170510 hurling @fort
Hurling practice at Charles Fort, Kinsale Harbor

Continue reading “Castles & Abbeys & Jigs, oh my—Southern Ireland”

The Windswept West Coast of Eire

Artisan pottery above the cliffs on the Ring of Dingle

Rugged. Lively. Solitary. Filled with laughter and song. Windswept. Storytelling, second to none. Craftsmanship. Hands in the soil. Hands on the tiller. The original twinkle in the eye, could be from the wind, could be from delight at pulling your leg. Tell a story, sing a song, take a shot of whiskey to chase away that bitter gust – close the door, quick!

The wind out here, up here, down here, up through the hills, and out on the wharf, is sharp and everpresent. Meandering through Galway out to the Salthill beaches or standing up on the Cliffs of Moher, take heed to keep the breeze from blowing away your hat, glasses, or small children.

Derry & Irish Heritage
Whether walking the walls of Derry, standing among the ancient cairns, or visiting one of the many heritage centers, you easily sense that the Irish are proud of their history. From the story of the potato famine and immigration that ensued to their thousand year struggle for independence against the usurping neighbors, they like to tell the tales.  Continue reading “The Windswept West Coast of Eire”

Touring the Roots of Ireland

No language on Earth has ever produced the expression “As pretty as an airport.”
–Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

An overseas trip always starts as an adventure when you lock your house and put the suitcases in the taxi, but something about the McDonaldness of airplane travel sucks some of the fun out it. As we embarked on this 16 day tour of Ireland, carefully gathering boarding documents and strategizing about packing, hopes were high. However, the ten hour flight from SFO to Heathrow, enduring rude seat recliners, bewildering instructions for which line to stand in for transferring planes, and the ever-desperate search for phone charge plugins had no unique Irish flavor to it.

My biased ignorance about the Emerald Isle consists of leprechauns, shamrocks, and “How Are Things in Gloccamorra.” All of which I know has as much to do with the culture of Ireland as Fisherman’s Wharf does with San Francisco. But I am ready to be a model tourist; I am prepared to look and listen and absorb.

Dublin: Live Music, Golden Torcs, Flying Pigs, and Guinness
Excited to finally be touring Dublin, we checked off several musts. We stood in the queue to see the Book of Kells, that medieval hand-painted biblical text at Trinity College. The exhibit and explanations were elaborate and somewhat more impressive than the faded book itself. Scribes who worked on different parts were identifiable by the artwork they chose to illustrate letters. The elaborate symbols which cover the full-page drawings that have to be explained to us moderns were code to the pre-literate population, who would know full well that peacocks meant incorruptability and grapes referred to the blood of Christ from the Last Supper.

Continue reading “Touring the Roots of Ireland”

Today’s Chuckle: In Defense of Mud

in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles          far          and wee


BAILIFF:              Order, Order in the court. His Honor Judge Michael Fairmind presiding. Today’s proceeding is Case # 04217-37B. Ms. I.M. Peevish vs. Mud. Ms. Peevish contends that on or around April 1, 2017, said Mud did willfully grab on to Ms. Peevish’s shoes and threaten to suck her into the bowels of earth and/or keep her stuck until she died. That Mud is also a scourge of the earth wreaking havoc across the continents, causing blight, mayhem, and general naughtiness.  Peevish is Suing for Damages, Pain and Suffering, Loss of Shoes, and Emotional Embarassment.

FAIRMIND:       Is the Plaintiff’s case ready, Mr. Greedie? If so, please proceed.

GREEDIE:           Thank you, Your Honor. We purport to show that Mud has caused massive problems worldwide with mudslides, mudstreams, and invisible mud pits which have caused thousands – including my client – no end of trouble.

Now, as Exhibit A shows, Mud is clearly a scourge of humanity. For example, just in 2017 alone there have been mudslides in Colombia, Sri Lanka, and Peru. Highways have been blocked, havoc has been wreaked, and mud has been spilled. And did I mention the havoc?

20170421 mudslide damageExhB maybve
Exhibit A: Mud blocks section of Highway 17

FAIRMIND:       You did.

GREEDIE:           Good, it’s very important to get that havoc in there. Anyway, I would like to call my expert witness, Professor Thin to the stand.

BAILIFF:              Calling Professor Tse N. E. Thin to the stand.

GREEDIE:           Professor Thin, you are a professor, are you not?

THIN:                   I definitely am.

GREEDIE:              And did you take these horrifying pictures of these mudslides in Colombia and Peru? And mudslides on the highway?

THIN:                   I did.

FAIRMIND:       Where did you take them, Professor Thin?

THIN:                   I took them off the Internet. Continue reading “Today’s Chuckle: In Defense of Mud”

Tax the Peasants with this One Weird Trick!

Taxes are universally despised by everyone who pays them; shared resources are universally used by everyone who pays taxes. These are common unpleasant truths like waste disposal and knowing where hamburgers come from. No one is pleased when April 15th approaches.

While the income tax in the US is a phenomenon that started in the middle of our young history, taxation in general goes back to the dawn of civilization. The notion of paying resources into the central governing body is at least as old as the development of writing. Many of the earliest forms of writing – cuneiform on clay tablets from Lagash, Sumeria ( now modern Iraq) – reflected accounting for taxes paid by the farmers and peasants.  Some of these predated coinage, so many taxes were paid in kind. Farmers paid with chicken, livestock, or grains and if they didn’t have the goods, they paid in labor.

20170412 tax gods_of_egypt___tax_day_by_serverustare
SeverusTare, Deviant Art

Continue reading “Tax the Peasants with this One Weird Trick!”