My friend Jimbo in Florida recently saw the Sean Penn movie "Into the Wild". Based on a true story. After graduating from Emory University in 1990, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandoned his possessions, gave his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters who shape his life.
McCandless survived for approximately 112 days in the Alaskan wilderness, foraging for edible roots and berries, shooting an assortment of game—including a moose—and keeping a journal.
above, the real Christopher McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp
Jimbo was so enamored by McCandless' story that he started calling me Supertramp, because Kelly & I sold all our possessions last year, and he pledged that he wasn't going to shave for 112 days in memory of Alexander Supertramp.
Now, I've known Jim for 14 years and I've never seen him go more than a couple of days without shaving. It drives him crazy. 112 days seems like a really long time but I agreed to give it a shot as well. I have no intention of actually growing a beard through July; I just want to last longer then Jimbo.
Here you can see Jim's beard on Day 5. Its already growing on his neck which is enough to make you rip your own face off. If you look closely at the picture you'll notice that Jimbo already has some red bumps from no doubt clawing at the irritating stubble. I wouldn't be suprised if Jim has shaved by the time I'm done writing this.
I also commented to Jim that I think his ears are getting bigger....more on that later.
How long did it take to grow this beard I wonder ?
Well, the US invaded Iraq in March/April of 2003 and this picture was taken in December. Thats 258 days
That means Jimbo would look something like this I have quite a good bit experience growing facial hair (translate: I am lazy when it comes to shaving)
The second week is the absolute worst
Jay's Mom has no problem growing a beard
Jim also said that if he does indeed grow his beard, he intends to quit his job and become an undercover cop....like Pacino in Serpico.
Now back to Jim's ears.
Jim plays a Multiplayer Online Role Playing game called Everquest. Its very Dungeons & Dragons / Lord of the Rings and also very fun. You set up a character by race (Elf, dwarf, human etc) and pick what you want to be (wizard, scout, warrior etc) and off you go on adventures amid amazing graphics with thousands of other people online in the same "world", gaining experience and loot.
Jim and I started playing this game in 1997...I stopped playing a year or so later.
Jim is now a level 77 Wizard Elf and one of the most powerful characters around. When other people see ElfJim coming, they run...whole groups of people are no match for JimWizard!
My theory is that Jim is turning into his Everquest character.
There are two lessons to be learned here. a) dont play video games until your ears start growing b) dont send your photo to a guy who has a sister who is an expert at photoshop ! (thanks alli)
Well, technically I guess I'm a suburban girl but there never was a Suburban Mouse in the fable and so I've always identified with City Mouse. Plus Suburban Mouse sounds so....ordinary.
City Mouse is at home on the mean streets. Country Mouse is at one with the land. Suburban Mouse, well, she just goes to the mall.
So...let's shed the last 35 years and concentrate on the past 9 months.
I AM CITY MOUSE!! HEAR ME ROAR! (or squeak) Now that we've got that out of the way let me tell you all about City Mouse's trip to the country.
A friend of mine knew I'd be alone for my first St. Paddy's day in Ireland, and while claiming she wasn't promising any dramatic entertainment, she invited me to her family's horse farm. As it turns out, I could not have been more entertained and delighted by two simple days!
We headed up Sunday morning, arriving in time for an early lunch, a bit earlier than her Mum expected us.
Early? Last minute guest? No problem! Rebecca's mother had a delicious lunch on the table in less than 30 minutes. I watched her swirl and twirl around her big comfy country kitchen, a dance of efficiency and long practiced capability. Tea, tuna salad, spinach soup, homemade bread AND scones (two kinds!! herb or raisin!! Is it any wonder I adored her right off the bat?) Not only this but she kept up her end of the conversation with Rebecca, listening to what was new in her daughter's life AND made me feel welcome with small talk.
Do you already get the feeling I'll be using the astounded and amazed "AND" a lot in this entry? Damned right I will be.
After lunch I rolled up my jeans, was fitted with a pair of old muddy boots and given a tour of the farm with Rebecca and her dad. I think we were out there for at least two hours, maybe even three; I was enthralled, educated AND entertained the entire time.
It was all old rambling farmhouse, stables squared around a courtyard, outbuildings, stream with vine choked stone bridge, wooded lanes, grassy paths, mud so deep it almost pulled my boots off, a genuine and bona fide ruin AND a real live (award winning) bog!! I learned all about how a bog functions and was used AND I was able to stick my hand into and pull out a wad of like-mud-but-not-mud peat that I rolled up like a meatball.
Walled gardens, haylofts, daffodils, paddocks, stone walls both intact AND crumbling, foals gamboling playfully around their mamas!!!
We tramped from one field to the next, sometimes we opened the big ol' gates separating them sometimes we clambered over them...One thought kept popping into my head: what a magical place to grow up! Lucky Rebecca.
Near the river the mud is so thick and deep that if one person jumps nearby you can feel the jelly-like jiggle of the ground when they land.
I met a shaggy old pony who lived down by the river. (By the way, my city peeps: a pony is just a small horse, something I've always suspected but had confirmed.)
Rebecca's dad showed off by jumping up on a pony bareback; I was completely and utterly impressed!!!
In one field the mares ran right over to us, nudging and inspecting and bumping (aggressive? friendly? how the hell should I know? I am city mouse remember?) I was exhilarated AND maybe just a wee bit scared.
Now might be a good time to mention that I am deathly afraid of horses, due to an unfortunate experience with an angry horse in Florida who, through no fault of his own, tried to kill me. After my stint as Country Mouse I am willing to go down to DefCon 3 with regards to our equine friends.
The occupants of other fields mostly ignored us though we did get the yearlings and sheep (who share a field) running from us as we walked through their space. Sheep make a funny clicking sound when they all run together. And they only go far enough to get out of perceived harm's way then they stop...but the whole lot of them never stop looking at you, weighing you and measuring your threat capacity. It was funny and unnerving at the same time. Oh yeah, and sheep are much dirtier looking close up than they seem from the road. Sheep of the world, do not worry, I still like you, just no longer want to hug you.
And I learned...well...what didn't I learn?? I saw a piebald mare who was wall-eyed AND she had adopted a foal whose mother died. I saw an old limekiln for making the precursor to cement. I helped mix two kinds of feed and put a bucketful in each stable for the horses when they came in for the night. (wasn't it sweet of them to let me think I "helped?")
I met a "teaser" pony with long blond hair. A teaser pony's job is to get near a mare to see if she's ready to mate, or be "covered" as we say down on the farm. If she is not she'll let him AND everyone else know in no uncertain terms. Only Rebecca's fancy footwork saved her from a mare hoof in the belly as she held the not-ready-mare's reins. If the mare is ready she'll submit to the teaser pony, at which point it's Rebecca's fathers job to pull him away and not let the poor pony finish the job. It's a tough life for that pony and frankly, I thought, a scary task for Dad. Is it any wonder I kept my distance during the whole process? And for the record, lest you lose sleep at night worrying about this pony's frustration, occasionally they bring in a girl pony who is not too good to be "covered" by him and he finally gets to do the deed.
I met two sweet dogs named Shep and Pedro and an affectionate barn cat named...Momma I think. They all come right over as soon as you step out of the house, and if you pet one, you must pet them all. They insist. (Much to my delight.)
I saw the remains of a 1200 year old ring fort or as Rebecca called it, a fairy fort. Fairy fort!?!?! Yay!! A tree ringed raised mound, probably surrounded by two rows of palisade type fencing back when it was used for...well, we speculated what it was used for. People? Animals? Protection from other tribes? The elements? All the above? Maybe the fairies moved in after the people stopped using it? It was located on the highest bit of land and that circular space has never been razed or plowed or used at all. Besides the remains of the earthworks you can recognize a fairy fort from the white thorn trees encircling it. Be warned - it's considered bad mojo to mess with it.
I "helped" get the horses into their stable after Dad drove them in from the fields. Rebecca and I waited in the stable yard as they came in in small groups. Our job was to get them into their appropriate stalls (and I use the term "our" very loosely as I did almost nothing but watch and try not piss any horses off.) I did manage to be useful once by steering a foal into the stall with its mother. I did that by standing in its way, raising my hands and saying Hey where do you think you are going?*
*This is an absolutely true story.
I also held one horse by her....bridle? I am still learning the lingo, but the thingy coming out of her mouth. And I sort of led her to her home for the night, or she led me there, I am still not sure, but I was in mortal fear that she would realize I was a fraud and trample me on the spot just on principle. As she didn't, I count that as a win for me.
AND all this was just the outside!! Rebecca's family was almost all there: three sisters and the parents, we were missing just the one brother. I loved having meals surrounded by a table full of chattering, funny girls. Anyone who has met my family will know what I am talking about when I say it was fun being on the other side of things.
I could go on and on: the big ol' house with a thousand rooms and fireplaces everywhere, more delicious meals from Mom, all the classic and authentic country estate touches - made me think "Martha Stewart - eat your heart out - this is the real thing!" But most impressive of all was the warmth and hospitality - watching a loving, smart, funny and generous family AND being made to feel welcome.
Thanks Rebecca and thanks to your peeps, you are all amazing!!
I just got back from a great, 6 day trip to NY for the final Team Ireland selection camp at the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY. We saw the last group of guys trying out for the team and announced the team that will represent Ireland in the European Championships this summer in Finland. Half the team are Ireland based players and half are American based players with Irish citizenship.
I also had plenty of opportunities to visit family and friends. Unfortunately, without my trusty, camera-toting sidekick Kelly, I didn't take many pictures. Luckily, Alli is a semi-pro photographer and always has a camera at the ready.
I spent my first night and the next day in NY with my sister Alli. We had dinner out in Manhattan then hit a few Irish bars for a few pints. One of the places we went was the Black Bear Lodge, which is made to look like a log cabin inside. It was too warm in the backroom though so we nicknamed it the Sweat Lodge.
Here i am at the Sweat Lodge trying to get delirious from the heat and alcohol so I can find my spirit animal.
The next day we had to meet my friend Joe in NJ so he could deliver my truck to me to use for my trip. Alli and I decided to take the bus from Port Authority to the Ikea Superstore in Elizabeth, NJ and wait for Joe there...oh boy, what an adventure.
After dealing with the unorganized hell that is the port authority bus terminal, we got on the bus only to find out at the last minute that it was the wrong bus. It dropped us about a 20 minute walk from Ikea.
Chris & Alli in beautiful Elizabeth,NJ
Then after a while shopping, we get to the check out area and its all the fancy-schmancy, self-checkout...which seems like an invitation for people to steal stuff, but I had a great time scanning Alli's purchases.
Hi, welcome to Ikea..my name is Chris, did you find everything ok ? paper or plastic? (insert scanning noises...bleep..bleep)
When we were walking to Port Authority, Alli was telling me about a project she had worked on that was going to involve banners of her drawings hanging all over the fashion district advertising a book...and then we came upon an advertisement for it !
I got to visit with my Dad 3 different days. On Saturday Alli, Aunt Jackie Dad and I went out to the South Bay Diner in Babylon for lunch before heading to Grandpa & Olga's.
This picture is actually from last year, but you get the idea...me & Dad
One day I even drove by the ol' Arnold Homestead in Massapequa where I grew up... hello old home that now belongs to strangers.
Traveling with me was fellow Dublin Lacrosse member Leonard who participated in the tryouts and made the team for Finland! Congrats Len !
Chris, Grandpa & Leonard during one of two visits I made to see my Grandfather & Olga. Being quite the fitness & nutrition nut himself, Leonard was very interested to hear about my grandfathers younger days as an award winning weightlifter, body builder and trainer...as well as Nassau County Sports Commissioner. We looked at Grandpa's old scrapbooks of newspaper clippings and photos and , of course, had a few beers.
On St Patricks Day, after visiting my Aunt Jackie, my Father, and Grandpa & Olga, we arrived at Matt & Jen's house to discover Matt and his children painted green.
On our last night in NY, we relaxed by the fire on Matt & Jen's patio, drank Blueberry Ale and caught up with friends...including a suprise cameo appearance by Brian Gressler and Matt's friend Tom the Relentless Debater.
I got to spend a good amount of time with Aunt Jack during my trip, but its never enough. Our last hour or so in NY was spent at Aunt Jackie's while she made Leonard and I tea, we repacked our bags and waited for our taxi to the airport to head home to Ireland.
A big thanks goes out to Bobby & Maryanne, who let us stay at their house in Long Beach for 3 nights. It was like staying at a bed & breakfast....that comes with dinner too !
Thanks Maryanne & Bobbie ! and Walnut too !
On Sunday night, many of Kelly's siblings came over for dinner cooked by Maryanne. It was great to see everyone, but I didn't have enough time to really catch up with everyone.
I'm already looking forward to my next trip to NY in May, when I'll stop on Long Island for 2 days before and 2 days after the NCAA Lacrosse Championships in Boston.
Niece Julia and her friend Josette (our adoptive niece for the week) came for a visit. Beautiful, talented, lively, hilarious and always willing to ham it up for the camera... never a dull moment with these girls. Here are some of the highlights, in no particular order.
Josette's Memorable Quote of the Trip: "I'm not against midgets or anything but I would never put little midget legs in my mouth." Here Julia demonstrates she has no such problem with little midget arms.
A tour of Kilmainham Jail.
Josette discovers... ...rugby boys will......pick you up in a heartbeat...... all you gotta do is ask. A return to the scene of the crime.
Julia and Josette demonstrate how to rock the V.I.P. area (thanks Becca!!)
Birthday boy, Michael, along with his fat old married friends, collectively known as the fifth, sixth and seventh wheels. Eric and Chris demonstrate - well - frankly, I am not really sure what they are demonstrating. Paddy teaching Julia the words (for the third time) of the old traditional Irish drinking song Seven Drunken Nights "As I went home on a Monday night, as drunk as drunk could be..." Josette discovers a lacrosse boy will also pick you up if you ask. (It helps to be tiny and adorable.)
Hooray for Emmets!!!! The grave of my Great Grandfather Andrew and his brother John. We didn't bring flowers but we left them an offering just the same.
The girls brought pretty dresses. (please note how Josette accessorizes her dress with a pair of fuzzy red ankle socks.)
Me, Jo, Jule and Becca at The Barge. There was much dancing and merrymaking.
On our roadtrip with the girls and guys of the UCD lacrosse teams we went to Cork and Limerick. Spreading the good news of lacrosse in exhibition games and doing some sightseeing as well. Above is King John's Castle in Limerick. This picture I post specifically for Luke, who up until recently did not believe castles were real.
At the castle Josette met King John and received his Royal Decree that is was to be the nastiest weather Ireland has seen in years on that very day. We rebelled in the only way we knew how...by following the self guided tour in a clockwise fashion, instead of the counter clockwise direction the lady at the desk instructed us to. We are crazy!! You can not stop us!!! Down with the King!!
Limerick was great, we got to hang out in its coolest pub, Nancy Blakes, and meet a friend Julia had made on a previous trip to Ireland. Keith was gracious enough to bring us to another pub, Dolan's, where we got to see a wonderful trad session.
But the best part of the whole trip and the biggest highlight for me was just getting to spend some quality time with my beloved niece. Julia, I think the world of you and time spent together is precious. You are absolutely beautiful, inside and out and I'm so proud of your creativity, your drive and your talent. Thanks for the visit!!