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Ireland trip with photos

Ireland – June 2003

This first photo is from Glendalough, so green I had to put it first.

I arrived in Dublin at 11PM June 5, I tried a day flight over to see if it’d help with jet lag, it did. So there was no showing up at 5AM and not being able to check into the hotel ’til noon. I just showed up at night and slept immediately, it worked well. Friday I walked around the city, taking it easy. For night time I had tickets for the Abbey Theatre’s production of the Plough & the Stars (why do they name everything in Ireland after bars in Boston?). Here’s a picture of the Abbey Theatre.The play was great, as expected. On my first nightly walk up O’Connell Street to return to my hotel I caught this shot below of Parnell Square. My hotel is the building with the facade outlined in white lights. I’d been told to stay on my guard on O’Connell Street at night, and I ended up walking up it every night about the same time. No troubles at all. I found it worse during the day when the sidewalks were mobbed with people walking every which way, bumping into each other. I discovered that Dubliners walk like Bostonians drive.

On Saturday and Sunday, 10 to 4, I took a playwriting class at the Irish Writer’s Centre next to the Dublin Writer’s Museum (and a ballroom dancing place which I didn’t visit). Our class had lunch in the museum cafe on Saturday. I didn’t get to visit the museum proper until the 12th, on the morning of the day I left. It was well worth a visit to learn about all the great storyteller/writers that came out of Ireland.
This is the room where I had my class. I didn’t have the guts to ask my classmates for a photograph, but now I wish I had. I have this picture of a lonely room while we took a noontime tea break. The folks in class were great people, each one of them has at least a couple great plays in them. I hope we keep in touch. The teacher was fabulous, Tee O’Neill, an Australian playwright relocated to Dublin. She was very inspirational in getting each of us to figure out how we work best, and then standing by it. I found some of the information very similar to screenwriting, and some to be quite different. I took a lot of notes, and came up with an idea for a play… the trick, as always, is showing up to do the work.
Saturday night after class I had dinner at Eliza Blue, and then meandered all over Temple Bar. I came across this great Spanish guitar player/singer and watched him for a while. He took his guitar case away to stop collecting money because he said it was his last show before he went home, so he was playing for Dublin that night. He said that a lot of Spanish students go to Dublin these days to learn English, and I certainly saw lots of Spanish folks during my week there.The baby got a coin for being such a good dancer.
Sunday night after class I went on the “Literary Pub Crawl” as recommended by my cab driver coming in from the airport. It was a lot of fun. Two actors took all of us to four different pubs of literary significance, stopping in between to tell stories by and about all the Dublin writers: Becket, Wilde, Joyce, Behan, etc. They gave us quiz questions as the night progressed and at the end of the night gave away a t-shirt and two lil bottles of Jameson to three lucky quiz winners. Well, I didn’t get in any of the answers from the questions they gave us, but at the end they asked a dark horse question: Which US rock star is buried near Oscar Wilde in Paris? I offerred up ‘Jim Morrison’ and won myself a little bottle of Jameson ‘body lotion’. I can’t imagine this sort of thing ever happening in the states, I mean, the giving away of hard liquor on a tour, at least without a lawyer being involved. Pretty fun. Ask me about the Welsh’s guy and his identical twin brother story, and also about “eight plain clothes nuns”, can’t post ’em on the web.
These are pictures of our two tour guides.And the photo below is one of the pubs on the tour. There was a nice traditional band just starting up when we got there.

On Monday I headed for the coast.

This is the day it rained.

This is Bray, south of Dublin. The hill off in the distance at the right is Howth, north of the city. I bought a day ticket for the D.A.R.T. for 6 euros and rode the train from end to end. The rain on Monday was fine, it reminded me of home, funny enough. Every other day had plenty of sun, I heard later that it rained like crazy back in Boston while I was gone. Strange thing to go to Ireland to get good weather, but that’s what happened.

Took a nice walk along the beach here. Since it was a Monday and raining it was all but deserted. This place must get hopping on weekends in nice weather. I grabbed lunch and tea at the Heather House, walked into downtown away from the ocean, and then jumped on the train to go all the way to the other end on the north side, to Howth.
Boy was I cold by the time I got to Howth. I ducked into a shop and had tea and a scone to recharge for more walking. There’s a nice cliff walk around the point in this photo on the right if I had four more hours, plenty of sunshine, and better shoes.I met two young German women on the literary pub crawl, and then ran into them on Monday night at the Abbey Theatre. They said that they did the Howth walk that morning, said it was nice. I guess I’ll have to go back.
This and the next few photographs are of the St. Mary’s Abbey at Howth, the tourbook says “once a medieval seat of learning famed throughout Europe, now little more than a roofless 16th century shell”. The grounds have an ‘active’ cemetery, with quite a few recent burials. The flowers all over kept me snapping pictures.

Monday night I zipped over to the Abbey Theatre again to see if there were any tickets available downstairs at the Peacock Theater. Doldrum Bay was on, and yes there were tickets left. So I got to see another play while I was in town.

Tuesday was my birthday and I started out by taking a “Historical Walking Tour” recommended by the literary tour people. A history graduate student from Trinity brought us around and explained quite a bit about the history of the country. I met a New York student on her way home from studying abroad in Paris. She was bumming around Europe for two weeks before she had to go back to the States. After the tour we had lunch together, and then went our separate ways.
Then I ran around Dublin shopping. And then at night I had nice pizza at the Mona Lisa restaurant. I was supposed to be meeting bookcrossing people there, but I didn’t spot them. I ended up leaving a bookcrossing book on the hotel bookshelf. I was so wiped out from all the walking that I just made watching tv in the hotel room a cultural event for the evening after dinner. I wanted to rest up for the tour I signed up for on Wednesday.

The tour was a bus ride from the Gresham Hotel, near mine. It took us in a 30 person bus down through County Wicklow. We stopped at Dalkey, and the Avoca weavers, and then headed into Glendalough. This is a monastery established by St. Kevin in the 6th century. This cemetery also has recent burials for the families that inherited the plots.
Does this tour guide look like he’s related to Cap, or what?

The tour guide sent all 30 of us on a walk in the woods, twenty minutes to the upper lake. He ran back to the tour bus to meet us up at the lake after our walk.

Look at these green woods. I couldn’t get enough of them.
Between this forest, the coach house for the horses in Enniskerry, and Baggot House in Dublin I felt like I was in Middle Earth.

This is the view as we approached the Upper Lake at Glendalough. I saw our tour bus on that road on the right in the distance.
The Upper Lake at Glendalough. As we arrived at this beach our tour guide, Kevin, handed each of us a plastic shot glass. When we all gathered around he pulled a full size bottle of Jameson out of his pocket. We couldn’t leave the beach until we killed the bottle. Luckily there was thirty of us, and he didn’t drink any himself since he was driving. When I finished my first shot Cap’s clone was right there to refill, and I couldn’t refuse.He drove us to lunch right afterwards, good planning. I had some great Irish stew in a pub with another woman who was a solo traveler. She was from Singapore and has travelled all over the world.

I found travelling alone to be a lot of fun. I noticed that the people that travelled in pairs on the tours I took didn’t seem to meet as many people and weren’t as outgoing. I met so many great people on this trip.

Here’s a panorama shot of the Guiness Lake. They call it that because of the natural color of the water. The Guinness family owns the land at the bottom and that light strip of sand on the right was imported from Florida. It really makes the lake look like a giant glass of Guinness.

This shot out the front window of the hills around the Guinness Lake shows the view from my seat on the bus. Thirty people on this bus and I have to ride shot gun in the jump seat next to the driver. It was a great view out the front, though. This driver, as well as my cab drivers, asked if I was Irish, they always seem proud of the folks with the Irish heritage coming back to see the old country. Their manner of speaking, and sense of humor really reminds me of home.

After this tour on Wednesday night I got a fancy sandwich at the bar in the Gresham Hotel. Then I walked over to Trinity to meet my new playwriting friend who invited me to sit in on her informal summer writing class at a pub away from the city center. Again, I met great people, and got to get the writing group vibe in Dublin.

My flight out of Dublin was at 3:45 PM on Thursday, so I had time to get to do a few more things that morning. I went to the Writer’s Museum right after breakfast since it’s situated right near my hotel. Then I jumped on the Dublin City Tour bus. The one I took in 97 when I was in Dublin with the guys was much funnier, but this one took us up to Phoenix Park which I hadn’t seen before. The Guinness Brewery had a new sky high restaurant which I didn’t get to see. Again, I’ll have to go back some day.

Above are a photo of the James Joyce statue and the Olympia Theatre. When I got home I looked up the nickname of this Joyce statue, figuring there must be one, it’s “The Prick with the Stick” or “The Prat in the Hat”, cracks me up. Also, the Floozie in the Jacuzzi statue was removed from O’Connell Street and a giant spire was in it’s place (what’s the spire’s nickname?!). I guess Dubliners weren’t too fond of the Floozie, I thought she was cool. The tour guides said she’s in a basement somewhere now and will probably end up in St. Steven’s Green.
The Olympia Theatre is where Smoothie took us to see the Concert for Maureen in 97 with all the great female musicians, I really wanted to get a photo of it.

Here’s a shot upstream from the O’Connell bridge on one of my walks back to the hotel.
What a fun trip, I hope I get back there again someday.




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“Joke” from Behind the Iron Curtain

Here’s a joke I heard during the communist summer of 1989 in Slovakia.

Three girls are in heaven, an American, a Slovak, and a Russian. They ask each other how they ended up there.
The American girl says that she wanted a car, so her family saved up for a year. Her father bought the car for her and then she went out and crashed it.
The Slovakian girl wanted a motor scooter, so her family saved up for a year. After a year her father went and bought her the scooter, and then she went out and crashed it.
The Russian girl wanted a bicycle, so her family saved up for a year, and she starved to death.


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Pilgrimage to Hollywood

Creative Screenwriting Expo. Los Angeles, CA.
November 16 & 17, 2002

I am an east coaster who steeps daily in the science of high tech, using my spare time to find some magic in stories. On a quest for enchantment, I take a trip with some friends to a screenwriting seminar in the heart of that magical land known as Hollywood.

Arriving in Los Angeles, I am actively looking for the magic. We see a minor celebrity at the baggage claim, and it’s thrilling to have someone to jump out of pop culture and do something as commonplace as retrieve their luggage. Ok, this is what I’m looking for, if I have already been charmed at the baggage claim, I shouldn’t be disappointed. We board a shuttle bus packed with other budding screenwriters and we head off down the Los Angeles freeway towards our hotel. It’s night time and for a few moments a subway car with Friday rush hour commuters travels next to us on the elevated highway, we look at each other vacantly for a moment until the train descends from our view leaving behind flourish of blue sparks from it’s roof. I see magic in this. The motion, the sparks, the people, the night. We arrive at the hotel and it invokes the feeling that we’re in exotic Morocco. I’m entranced. I’m happy.

Saturday morning we walk over to the convention center to pick up our registration material and begin our classes. The number of people at this event is staggering. One long line for class registration, one for people participating in an on-the-spot writing competition, and another for the opportunity to pitch their story ideas directly to producers. I’m astounded by the number of people that have a stories to tell, and want, also, to be a part of the magic of Hollywood.

As classes begin I realize that there’s a science behind motion-pictures, and not just on the technical aspects of camera and lighting, but of story. From engineering school I know about how the internet works, computers, cell phones, television, etc; these things appear magical to those that haven’t studied the formulae and models used as a baseline to create these things. And I begin to see that the art of story-telling comes from a methodical study of human behavior, of how the human mind interprets images, remembers information, and connects thoughts together to achieve an experience. The most moving works in cinema start with that foundation from the earlier models and formalae, which is an analysis of the old tales, the mythology and folklore that comes to us from the mists of prehistory. More than one speaker spoke of Carl Jung’s archetypes and collective unconscious, and Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces.

The three speakers who gave me the most information were Kevin Downs, Richard Krevolin, and Melody Jackson. All three were good teachers that have read and analyzed countless screenplays, and could distill their knowledge into understandable morsels of wisdom appropriate for a two day seminar.

Kevin Downs spoke about character’s inner motivation. He used the example of Hannibal from Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal is a captivating character revealed through his actions. But it’s because of his solid inner motivation that his behavior rings true. Well, so, what’s his inner motivation? We think quietly for a moment, we have a hard time putting our finger exactly on it. Then Kevin tells us, Hannibal is a cannibal because he wants to prove his superiority by showing that he’s not a member of the human race. Yes, I think, of course. This is what makes him compelling without any blatant exposition in the film explaining this. His action gives us this information, but it comes to us at a base level of understanding. The audience couldn’t say it outright, but that’s it… he wants to be better than the rest of the human race, and he shows this by eating people while drinking chianti.

Richard Krevolin spoke about structure with a remote control in his hand as he fast forwarded through a tape of Stand By Me. He showed us how the movie is bookended by a modern day narrator, with the bulk of the story shown in flashback. The hero is a boy on a journey which will make him a man. The speaker shows us coupling, when a certain battle is lost in the first half of the story, it is there so it can be won in the second half of the story when our hero can then handle it. Our little hero spills some blood towards the beginning of the film, we learn this is a symbol invoking an initiation right. We hear the sound of flies on the soundtrack when our hero is simply walking along, we learn this implies death. I’m beginning to feel used at this point, am I such a chump to fall for all these machinations? The speaker tells us that we have to check in with the bad guys every ten to twelve minutes so the audience can see them being bad and they’ll remember this for the final conflict. If it’s more often then ten minutes, then it might not be the hero’s story, any less than ten minutes, we might forget about the bad guys. Toward the end of act two or beginning of act three we should have a revelatory monologue, so the actor that plays our hero gets a chance at the Academy Award. Now, I definitely feel used. Well, so if you’re watching a movie, how do you know when we’re transitioning from act to act? The music swells, he says, always. At this point I become cynical, though I hang on his every word. He says that if the writer’s hand if present, then the writer has failed, it should be an organic experience. Yes, I believe that’s where the magic lies, but how?

I find the answer in Melody Jackson’s lecture which began with new age music and the lighting of a candle. She spoke about tapping into the mythical archetypes to tell the most moving story you can tell. We’re trying to create the sort of movie that afterwards leaves you standing on the sidewalk outside the theater speechless. You know you were moved, but you can’t find the words explaining how. By using archetypal energies we can get there, she says. The archetype of the mentor, the trixter, or the eternal child. The father-son relationship, mother-daughter, lovers. Events such as milestone birthdays, anniversaries, funerals. Dilemmas such as love vs. money or career or loyalty. Life changing moments as when the doctor calls you into his office and tells you he has bad news. That deep primal feeling you have when you hear this, that’s the level we want to reveal in our stories. Things we all can understand as we experience them safely with the onscreen characters as the vessels for our emotions.

And so, with all this newly learned information I walk back to my Moroccan flavored hotel feeling somewhat used and disenchanted, thinking all those years as a movie-goer were just me being duped by film-makers. I’m a beguiled puppet, how depressing.

Nearly back to the hotel, I see for the first time there in the distance, nestled into the side of a hill, the misaligned white block letters spelling HOLLYWOOD. I smile because I realize that I am willing to be manipulated to experience these timeless stories. And it’s a thrill to aspire to contributing to the behind-the-scenes wizardry. My pilgrimage to Hollywood was all I had hoped for.