“All your compliments and your cutting remarks are captured here in my quotation marks.” from “Every Day I Write the Book” by Elvis Costello
It’s been an unusually quiet evening here at the Oxfam charity shop just a few doors down from the Gaiety Theatre on King Street. The day has been rainy with gale force winds, but I don’t mind at all – at home everyone is still digging out from thirty inches of snow. Still, I reckon some shoppers have been put off by the weather. (Yes, I used the word reckon and I liked it.) True to form though, many of the regulars have stopped in for a look around the shop. There’s an elderly lady with royal blue glasses with thick lenses who loves to buy bracelets. She prefers the hard bangle type – one time she bought three with three separate trips to the till. Later a woman comes in to collect her vintage blue-crystal wine glasses that she had on hold. As she’s personally wrapping them up, she tells me about a recent study she saw that scientifically proves that collecting items helps improve brain function. (As Hemingway might say, wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?) Later still, a very disheveled elderly man comes in, walks up to the till, hands me 250 euros and says, “I would like to donate this, please.” I am amazed. Another woman who has been in every single Tuesday – and somehow I feel that she might be stopping in on other days as well – comes up to the counter with a mound of clothes and says, “Jaysus, I hate shopping.” Then she adds, “Don’t ring me up just yet. I want to have another quick look around.” It would appear she’s conflicted. And mightn’t we all be? In every book store and on several television shows, Marie Kondo and her books about keeping less are prominent here. The Magic Art of Tidying Up was her first book about decluttering, and her second one Spark Joy continues to promote the notion that unless an item “sparks joy” when you see it, it should be discarded. Both books are fun to read, and I do understand that many people have too much stuff indeed. I even find myself day dreaming about decluttering the closet in my spare bedroom at home, but at the same time I also realize that it’s one’s stuff that makes a place a home. And for me it’s one of the toughest parts of being away from home for an extended period of time – I miss my stuff. I love my stuff. And I know that I’m not alone. One of the girls who volunteers at Oxfam comes in on her day off and tries on a deep red felt Ted Baker hat with a brim. She looks adorable in it and she says, “I don’t know if I’ll ever wear it, but I’m going to get it.” See what I mean?
But more than my things, I miss my friends and family back home. And by sheer luck, in October, I discovered Messenger. I was writing a long message to my friend, Gail, about my adventures here in Dublin, when I saw a little phone icon, touched it, and was almost instantly, magically talking to her for free. We were ecstatic. Only Alexander Graham Bell might understand just how happy we were. It was a moment. Anyway, I’ve been bothering her and several other friends with calls ever since. It’s changed the way I feel about being here. But even though I love talking to friends at home, I’m living here, so I continue to be a girl about town, an American in Dublin with a blog to write. This week I made the rounds, including an outing on Saturday night to Lillie’s Bordello, a gorgeous nightclub on Adam Court, a little alley just at the end of Grafton Street.
The club’s dark walls are covered with photographs and paintings of nude women, but the real-life people watching from the vantage point of the tufted leather sofas was the real display. My Irish friends who were there introduced me to their friends. One of them, Dave, said as he was introducing me, “This is Kathy -she’s a writer.” It made me happy to think so.
Then on Sunday I asked Helen to meet me at the Wynn’s Hotel on Abbey Street for tango lessons. When we saw our prospective partners, we were not too sure about the whole idea, and I innocently said, “It takes two to tango,” one of my most favorite aphorisms. It is really all that needs to be said about almost all relationships, and it fit this instance perfectly because we were literally dancing the tango. I felt like I could have been in a Sex and the City episode. And to seal the deal, just as Helen and I were about to leave, a man that I know from a previous social gathering came running over to me to say hello. I asked him how he’d been and he began to tell me that his January had been miserable because of a dental infection. He actually started describing the situation with way too many details and he seemed about to try to show me the affected area when I said, “Well you seem to be fine now. We’ve got to be going. Take care!” As soon as we got outside, Helen and I burst into laughter. I ask you, why would a man ever start talking to a woman that he barely knows about his dental infection? We headed over to the Bank for drinks and Helen suggested that she and I collaborate on a manual to help socially challenged men. It sounds like something I would be able to help her with quite easily. And later when I talk to my dad and tell him about the exchange, my dad says, “He should have said next, ‘Would you like to kiss me?'” Hilarious, Dad.
And so those are just a few of the things I’m musing over this week here in my apartment in Dublin.