San Francisco

Just before I made the move back home I took a short trip to San Francisco. A friend of mine had lived there for a year or so and had been telling me how great it was, so I was keen to see the place. Other friends of mine had made the big move across the states to the West coast and I wanted to see them too before i left. Brian and Joanne were getting on great there and Brian, or Broan as I affectionately call him was a massive help to me when I first moved to Woodlawn. I decided to impose upon them for a weekend without their consent, so everyone was happy. They had just returned from a Christmas break to Ireland and I was due to arrive the following Friday, a mere five days later. That was plenty of recovery time for them and I knew they’d appreciate putting me up and showing me the sites.

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I had my last day in work on Thursday of that week. I made the trek back to Woodlawn from Manhattan, relieved to be free of any more responsibilities in the Vanguard. I caught a few hours of shuteye, packed my bag badly once again and wearily made my way to Newark that next morning.
I arrived into San Francisco international airport that Friday evening, still stunned by the beautiful views from my window seat as we flew over Nebraska. I ordered an Uber and made my way to Locksley Ave. Hugo was my driver and after a few minutes confusion as to where he was picking me up we made our way to Brian and Joanne. Hugo talked the ear off me the full forty minute drive, telling me his life story and all about how he was also a concierge in a previous life. He talked, I laughed, he talked, I stayed silent, he talked, I gave grunts and one word replies, he still talked. He got five stars.

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That first night was great. I caught up with two old friends and we went for food in a Caribbean/Brazilian/ethnic resturant. I remember no names of the places I was in because I am lazy and meant to write this last month. We barhopped for a while, drinking Sangria and Vodka Cokes by the jugful. A bar called Milk had so many cutouts of Elvis Presley and impersonators of the King. I put two and two together, got 5 and put it down to San Fran being a cooky place. Not once did it cross my mind that it might be an Elvis themed night. Great lad all the same.

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Along with the weekend came all the sightseeing. We did the lion’s share on the Saturday. We walked down to Haight street, where we were the night before and got a bite to eat, myself and Joanne getting Mimosas and cocktails like all girls do on their hols.
Brian drove us first to the Twin Peaks (LOL). The views were unreal, spreading out over the whole city. In the distance, a tiny speck of land turned out to be Japan. I couldn’t believe it, we were that close to the other side of the world. I had my doubts but Brian explained to me that Earth is flat despite the fact that the globe is round. I was happy with that and happy that Brian would never lie to me. Would you Brian?

Liar then drove us out to one of the viewing points for the Golden Gate bridge. It was awesome up close and the pictures don’t do it justice. I got my picture in with the Holly Bough too, so I was even happier. We could’ve walked it but I only brought a half zip and my nipples were cutting glass. Very dangerous on a windy day.

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That evening we drove out to Sausolito. It is a stunning, picturesque little town that you can reach by car or via ferry from fisherman’s wharf. Right on the edge of the water, droves of tourists took photos perilously close to the deep blue. The city was visible off in the distance, as was Alcatraz, the famous prison that hosted Al Capone and believe it or not, Clint Eastwood.
Japan too loomed large in the background and in my mind.

We had a night on the tiles that night, painting San Francisco red. “But we want blue!”, the San Franciscans cried. We cared not. Brian, Joanne, Sarah and I laughed and roared into the night, painting every square inch of wall red, not forgetting our primer.
San Fran is a great night out in all seriousness but for any New Yorkers that are heading there, last call is 2AM and not 4AM. Be wide.

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Sunday was supposed to be full of sights and tourism too, but after seeing the Golden Gate, the Twin Peaks (LOL), along with Lombard street and the house where Mrs. Doubtfire was filmed, as well as a hangover that would kill a Belgian Blue, we decided to just keep drinking.
Pints of Blue Moon, several shots of whiskey and board games came out in favour of sightseeing and I think we were all a happy bunch.

I did a bit of solo sightseeing on the Monday. After rising from the cot in the early afternoon I made my way to Haight street where I grabbed a bite to eat. I bought a few t-shirts and postcards because that’s what people do on holidays. I hopped in an Uber and travelled down to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf.
I decided to stay put and have a look around. I was transfixed by the Mechanical Museum where arcade games and old attractions were on display and available to use. There was a whole village that was powered by 75 cents. I must add that it is a miniature village made of wooden figurines, but after you put in the money and walk around the glass display it is just amazing. Countless characters have their own individual movements, some even interacting with others.
There was a Simpsons arcade game, basketball games and shooting games, but I was taken in by the slow moving, intricate depictions of different scenes like the one I just described. Despite all that San Francisco has to offer I would tell everyone to go to that museum, bring a roll of quarters and just have a blast.

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After a last supper with Bi-Bri and Jo-Jo, I flew back to Newark late that night. I didn’t really have time then to think about my experience in San Fran as I had five days to pack and prepare for moving home. After taking two months to get off my arse and write some long-winded spiel about the craic we had there, I know I’ll definitely be back there, I’ll definitely be back for longer and Brian and Joanne are fantastic hosts. I’m willing to look past the fact that they lied to me about the geographical location of Japan in relation to San Fran. Dishonor on your families.

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On the Banks of My Own Lovely Lee

It has been 375 days since I’ve last been in Cork. A year and ten days. Prior to this, the longest I had stayed away from the Rebel County was for four months when I studied in New Paltz, upstate New York. I was home that Christmas and didn’t really miss it as I was studying in this new, exciting environment. This time, up until the year mark I hadn’t really missed the People’s Republic at all. I missed the people, my family and friends and the craic we have, but I never really thought about the place that much. It was almost as if a switch was flipped on the 365th day. All of these fond memories came flooding back of places around the city and the countryside. I realised I missed Cork more than I let myself believe, and there is plenty to miss.

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I miss living a thirty second walk from the G.A.A. pitch, climbing over the fence to go smash footballs and sliotars wide of the post.
I miss living a ten minute walk from the local pub, the Country Squire, putting pints away until the wee hours.
I miss playing Championship in Ballinlough with Rathpeacon, especially when we beat Whitechurch in the football six years ago.
I miss going to town with the older lads on the team, getting into the Secret Garden at 18 years old because you knew someone who knew the bouncer. That was a great feeling.

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I miss going to the Woolen Mills in Blarney and looking at the Americans buy about twenty Aran sweater vests for their family portraits later in the year.
I don’t miss working there, though, for the exact same reason!
I miss seeing all the old school friends as we drink together in the Muskerry Arms, old stories retold, as funny as the day they happened, especially the ones about drinking underage in the GAA woods.

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I miss Dino’s potato pie meal, Hillbilly’s chicken tenders meal, but most of all, I miss Sloppy Foley’s from Murphy’s chipper in Blackpool. Pure perfection.
I miss walking through Blackpool to the city, passing by the Heineken Brewery and smelling the making of my favourite drink.
I miss the view of the Opera House as you come upon the Christy Ring Bridge.
I miss going to plays in the Cork Arts Theatre, the Opera House and the Everyman.

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I miss grabbing a coffee in Gloria Jean’s in the Savoy and then walking toward Grand Parade. You never know who you’ll see on your travels but you will see at least two people you know.
I miss walking up Washington Street, looking in all the shop windows before you see the gates of U.C.C. loom in the distance, and the beauty of Fitzgerald Park not too far behind on the other side of the road.
I miss grabbing a nice pint of Heineken in the Mutton Lane, the nicest bar in Cork, in my opinion, before walking through the English Market, smelling the fish, the cakes, the vegetables and listening to the chat.
I miss sitting in Peace Park watching the pigeons startle themselves in the water of the fountain.

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I miss going to Mahon Point and spending an absolute bomb in the food court and the Omniplex. Also, the Reel Picture in Blackpool is better which is a true fact.
I miss going to the cinema on my own, too, in fairness.
I miss going to the Guitar Shop on MacCurtain street and Pro Musica on Oliver Plunkett street, playing for a while before realising I’m broke.

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I miss the bars in Cork. I know the bouncers can be a bit tough to deal with sometimes but I can also be a drunken ass, so let’s call it quits when I’m back, yeah?
I miss the carnage that appears on Oliver Plunkett street on a weekend night. Good carnage, but carnage all the same.
I miss the taco sauce from John Grace’s, especially after a feed of beer.
I miss the music in the Oliver Plunkett or the Crane Lane.

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I miss my family and friends too and will probably mention them in different posts but this is just about a place. It’s also about mainly food and drink huehuehue. A place my family moved to when I was nine years old. It is the place that made me into a more confident young man and is the place where I made my best friends, bar college and woodlwan of course. I will be back next month for a while. Who knows how long for? I certainly don’t. It is funny that these thoughts only came into my head since the year mark passed. I don’t know how my friends out here who literally can’t go home have been able to do it for three years and some change. Fair dues to them. I think I could manage it but I can only imagine how tough it must be. I am lucky that next month I won’t have to miss it as I return to the banks of my own lovley Lee.

Nostalgia

At the end of the day, life is built on memories. Every new experience, group of friends and places we visit and live shape us as people. We make new memories everywhere we go. We spend 5 days a week for 14 years with our best friends in school, and often spend whole summers with them in between. We head off to college and make a new group of friends, sometimes losing touch with old friends and only consistenly seeing a handful. It’s new and it’s scary but it’s freeing. We have more freedom. Some of us graduate and some of us don’t. Some of us don’t go to college. Some of us move away and some stay at home. Some of us will get married and have children and some of us won’t. In all likelihood, some of us will live happy, fulfilling lives and some of us won’t. But we will all make memories. Sometimes it is good to take stock and reflect on where we’ve come from and where we’re going.

I am lucky enough to hold dual citizenship and don’t have to worry about overstaying a visa. A number of my friends here aren’t in that position and are forced to stay here until their status becomes more positive. I can head home at any time I want while they have to stay which makes me feel a bit of misplaced guilt. It’s not my fault that they can’t leave. The guilt comes from being able to satisfy my nostalgic needs if they get too high. I’m not one to let homesickness get the best of me but if there was ever a time that I needed to go home, I could. Nostalgia is a fickle friend, filling you up with happiness and longing all at once.

I follow alot of Irish tourism pages on Instagram and Facebook. I watch a lot of Irish t.v, sports and documentaries on t.v. and streaming services. I keep in touch with friends from home all over the world, thanks to the wonders of social media. I like to keep up with what is going on and scratch my itch of seeing home every once in a while. However, nostalgia and memories can creep up on you and leave you in a heap. A picture of Cork City from Patrick’s hill recently just dropped me back to when I was 11 years old and going to open nights for secondary school. Christian Brother’s School was on the list. I had a knot in the middle of my stomach as I walked through the school, knowing it was more expensive than the other schools. Even then, I worried about money. I knew this wasn’t the school for me and thankfully, despite one of my best friends going to that school, I chose Blarney, where I made other best friends. I chose Music as an elective even though I didn’t particularly like singing in public and only being able to play the tin whistle at an average grade. That class brought me my first girlfriend, constant laughs and most importantly, two of my best friends. We had trips to Dublin where we played Bullshit on the train and went to operas and didn’t understand them, secret looks that we shot at each other in class and inside jokes we would laugh about all the time. I went to different colleges than those friends from the class and we didn’t see each other as much anymore. I wouldn’t say we drifted apart but relationships and distance didn’t bring us any closer.

Thankfully, through living in different countriess and coasts of the same country, and with the help of modern technology, we’re still extremely close. Any awkwardness or distance is forgotten as soon as I see these two girls again and we go for food and gossip and chats. We talk about old times and new times and new memories we have all made in our respective new homes.
I have loads of other memories with these two and with all my close friends from home that I happen to think about randomly from time to time. I could list off pages upon pages of memories with other close friends but the fact is this particular picture put my brain on this particular path to think of these particular girls who I am very lucky to call my friends.
Sometimes I do feel guilty that my buddys here won’t get to see their homeland as soon as I can, but I know that in the future when we are all there together for a wedding or an event or just a casual meet-up, we’ll make new memories.