As part of my Tin Jubilee Celebration (ten years as an expat) I am re-running web journal posts (remember those?) from August 2001—the year I visited Ireland, met my wife and began this adventure.
Tuesday, 7 August 2001, 9:53 PM
The nights are soft and sultry lately, and the days hot and humid. It’s the type of summer I love and, even though I can’t say I won’t appreciate the cool autumn afternoons, I’m still not sick of this weather.
It’s been an interesting couple of days. My dancing and bag piping are taking up a lot of my time and I’m finding both to be satisfying. Especially the piping; I’m on the actual pipes now, playing real songs. This means I’m in that enviable position where, all I have to do is learn one song reasonably well and I’ve improved by 100%. If I’m pleased with my progress, I must be doing well.
Last week, I took the twins out for their 21st birthday. We went to dinner at the Outback Steak House and I gave them their presents. They didn’t make a big deal out of it or anything, even though I tried to get the point across that this wasn’t just an ordinary birthday.
The next day, I left for Philadelphia to spend the weekend with a distant cousin and her husband who I had met through the family tree website. That was a trip! They were both very nice people and made me feel quite welcome. Another distant cousin came over the first night and we visited and talked about the family for a few hours. The only odd thing is (or maybe, in this family, it isn’t so odd) that my cousin and her husband don’t hold ‘regular’ jobs; they work for organized crime. “Mostly gambling and counterfeiting,” as he explained it, making it seem like he was in banking or retail or something. He works for one of the three or four operations in the city, collecting money and selling prescription drugs they get from the counterfeit scripts they procure from a pharmacist who is heavily into gambling. “It’s a no-risk operation,” he explained.
Being in such a business, they tended to keep strange hours. Phone calls were constant and he kept stepping out to the corner to “conduct business.” I went to bed at 1:00 AM only to find out they both stayed up until dawn. We had breakfast at 1:00 PM and dinner that night at 10 o’clock. During the afternoon, he went out while my cousin and I stayed home and talked. He returned about 5:00 PM with a big bag of freshly harvested pot plants and several thousand dollars. My cousin and I continued talking while he dumped it all on the table and then we all began cleaning the pot and bundling the money. Handguns were everywhere.
I can’t say I was spooked by any of it, but I wasn’t really sorry to leave.
Right now, I’m gearing up for vacation. I’ve asked for my mail to be stopped, I’m starting to buy and borrow things I’m going to need and I’m making lists of what I need to bring and what I need to buy for people while I’m over there. In two weeks, I’ll have been there for some time; in three weeks, I’ll STILL be there. This weekend will be spent doing some final prep and next Thursday Jeanne—a friend of mine from work—is taking me to the airport.
After all those years with She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, I am so enjoying the single life, where every day is a new opportunity. I like just picking up and running off to Philly or meeting people at a Feis (Irish dance festival) or going to a party and not having to look at my watch all the time. I will not allow myself to be put back into that box!
Last week, on the one day I didn’t have something to do, I stopped over at Jeanne’s house. That turned into quite a late night of neighbors and friends and beer and trips to search for a lost cat. It was like something out of Seinfeld, and I had a ball. One of her neighbor couples, Joe and Rosemary, had a friend form West Virginia up for the week. Her name was Lynn and she apparently took a liking to me since she asked Jeanne if she would give her my phone number and e-mail address. Of course, I told her she could. Lynn, after all, lives too far away to be any type of threat to my freedom, and a trip or two to West Virginia might prove to be a nice diversion.
My new job is going okay, as well. In many ways it’s comforting that it is all so hopeless; I’m not about to be held accountable for anything being late with absolutely no staff to work on any of the projects. I had a meeting today with the people involved in the most urgent, major project, and the lead woman turned out to be another bagpiper. In fact, she is the Pipe Major of Tara Hall, the band my piping teacher wants me to join.
Other than that, it’s been calm and serene. I’m out on the patio now with my laptop, enjoying the warm night air, listening to the sounds of the suburbs and taking in the scents of summer. Soon, I’ll be off to Ireland, and when I return, it will be nearly September. I doubt I’ll have many more days to sit out here in bare feet and shorts.