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August 29, 2013

inothernews:

Hurricane Katrina, eight years ago today. (Photograph of a flooded New Orleans by Vincent Laforet / Reuters via The Guardian)

I was in Dublin in this tiny rowhouse apartment on the North Side, a place where you still got glimpses of the dirty old town it used to be. It was a Sunday, I think, and I was Skypeing with my parents and my grandma Su, who was visiting from Sarasota. 
"Have you heard about this hurricane Katrina?"
Being from Florida she was more attuned than the rest of us to the nightly hurricane watch. I hadn’t heard of it and I didn’t think much of it. I was more preoccupied with the fact that in the same conversation I asked my great-aunt how her husband was doing — and she had to remind me he had recently passed away.
What can I say? I was 23 and across the ocean.
(Good god, was I really 23?)
It wasn’t ‘til the next evening, Dublin-time, that Katrina warranted a spot on the Irish 24-hour news. I remember seeing it on a gas station TV set and feeling like I was the only one who cared.
To be fair, it wasn’t bad yet.
But over the next few days, Katrina became Katrina.
My whole life changed because of it.
…which just goes to show.
You can count the dead bodies in the attic.
You can count the missings and the founds and the pets and the jobs and the schools lost.
You can count the moves and the start-overs and the Mayor Nagins and the Common Grounds.
You can count ‘til there’s nothing left to count.
You still won’t have the measure of that storm.
PS: Just realized that my great-uncle passed away much later; it would he years before I’d put my foot in my mouth like that. But trust me, I did.

inothernews:

Hurricane Katrina, eight years ago today. (Photograph of a flooded New Orleans by Vincent Laforet / Reuters via The Guardian)

I was in Dublin in this tiny rowhouse apartment on the North Side, a place where you still got glimpses of the dirty old town it used to be. It was a Sunday, I think, and I was Skypeing with my parents and my grandma Su, who was visiting from Sarasota. 

"Have you heard about this hurricane Katrina?"

Being from Florida she was more attuned than the rest of us to the nightly hurricane watch. I hadn’t heard of it and I didn’t think much of it. I was more preoccupied with the fact that in the same conversation I asked my great-aunt how her husband was doing — and she had to remind me he had recently passed away.

What can I say? I was 23 and across the ocean.

(Good god, was I really 23?)

It wasn’t ‘til the next evening, Dublin-time, that Katrina warranted a spot on the Irish 24-hour news. I remember seeing it on a gas station TV set and feeling like I was the only one who cared.

To be fair, it wasn’t bad yet.

But over the next few days, Katrina became Katrina.

My whole life changed because of it.

…which just goes to show.

You can count the dead bodies in the attic.

You can count the missings and the founds and the pets and the jobs and the schools lost.

You can count the moves and the start-overs and the Mayor Nagins and the Common Grounds.

You can count ‘til there’s nothing left to count.

You still won’t have the measure of that storm.

PS: Just realized that my great-uncle passed away much later; it would he years before I’d put my foot in my mouth like that. But trust me, I did.

(via thisisfusion)

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June 19, 2013

Mrs. O in a Burberry trench (it’s taunting me) in Northern Ireland, and later, visiting Trinity College (my alma matter), where they reviewed “archives that document the Obamas’ Irish ancestry.” Cool, right?

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May 10, 2013

Trinity College Library (via thillythenny)
One of my alma matters and even more stunning in person.* It’s not in use as an active library — but there is an impossibly romantic stone staircase at the far end that leads to special archives, where I researched my dissertation. Sometimes I think I should have skipped the M. Phil. and come straight to New York. But then I remember everything that experience gave me, and I’m grateful.
* Also inspiration for some Start Wars thingy.

Trinity College Library (via thillythenny)

One of my alma matters and even more stunning in person.* It’s not in use as an active library — but there is an impossibly romantic stone staircase at the far end that leads to special archives, where I researched my dissertation. Sometimes I think I should have skipped the M. Phil. and come straight to New York. But then I remember everything that experience gave me, and I’m grateful.

* Also inspiration for some Start Wars thingy.

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March 1, 2013

I always remember you as having a really fancy handbag with books by Proust and Yeats inside it.

Something one of Cian’s old friends said to me last weekend. Spending money, reading books — yup, me in a nutshell. (Pity it hasn’t been less of the former, more of the latter.)

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March 1, 2013

A few more Dublin moments (the trees were already beginning to blossom there).

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March 1, 2013

I’ve said before Fiona has an artist’s spirit and it comes out in everything she does. Each morning, after waking me with hot lemon-water (imagine me smiling as I type that),* she made me a little snack of unusual ingredients. One morning it was thin corn cakes topped with the thinnest spread of crème fraîche, mandoline’d green apple slices, and crunchy flakes of sea salt. The other it was whole wheat pita, elegantly torn, topped with homemade beet relish, crème fraîche, roughly chopped parsley, and a drizzle of good olive oil.

The thing I appreciate most about this is that it’s true soul food. She peeks into her fridge and cupboards and then just listens to her heart.

I saw it again on display at a Sunday dinner at her home. Where I always worry about not having “a protein,” she simply made what would taste good and please the eye: bagna cauda with winter vegetables (she used Jamie Oliver’s excellent recipe — a total keeper, as both she and I have been burned by bad bagna cauda recipes before), mandoline’d fennel drizzled with lemon juice and sprinkled with salt, French lentils, beet salad with a dollop of crème fraîche, and my — meager — contribution, my signature feta dip.

It was such an inviting meal, the kind you must engage in, the kind that has no rules (mix together whatever you want), the kind that fairly demands long conversations over wine that turn into long conversations over port.

I can’t wait to recreate it for a decidedly more low-brow pursuit: The Bachelor finale. #shameless

* Oh and she put me to bed with a hot water bottle tucked into the chilly nether regions of the bed. I’m shocked I ever left.

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March 1, 2013

Lest I gave you the impression last night that Dublin is hopelessly quaint, on Friday Fiona took me to lunch at a cafe called The Fumbally, named for the rather improbable-sounding lane upon which it sits.

With seasonal ingredients, filtered water spouts, designer crates of local kombucha, and hipsters watching sloth videos on MacBooks, it felt just like home. (Actually, Fiona’s company designed that kombucha packaging. So there.)

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February 28, 2013

When I arrived at Fiona's home in a neighborhood of Dublin 8 known as The Tenters — a neighborhood of identical low-slung brick row houses and street names that change from block to block, as though designed to confuse — it was just after 11 am. Her flatmate answered the door. 

"You must be Nora!"

She explained that the electricity had just gone out — while Fiona was in the shower, no less — “and so I can’t even offer you tea,” she apologized, really quite put out by it.

Tea! I thought. Tea, of course!

And then: It’s great to be back.

Fiona, she explained, had run off to her gym to finish her shower — for you see the shower runs on electricity, as does the stove and everything else. We waited and made small talk, and as we did, I took in the details, the things I had forgotten: good Irish butter on the table, clothing hanging from the line in the back, an in-your-bones chill that I know from experience won’t let up ‘til spring.

When the repairman arrived, I listened in from the next room.

"My flatmate was after taking a shower," she explained, "after" being Irish slang for … well, not really for anything. It’s just a filler-word; a bit of that trademark musicality, perhaps. Because she really just meant “my flatmate was taking a shower.” 

"Ah, showers on Fridays," the electrician replied. "Sure, it happens all the time."

Did I hear that right? I had to laugh. Only in Ireland do showers on Fridays cause mass electrical outages.

Whatever the problem, they fixed it quickly, Fiona came home, and we had our tea.

I had been staring at the array of butters, honeys, and jams on the cheery yellow table.

"This looks so lovely," I said, "though we’d never do it the States. Too afraid of not refrigerating everything."

Fiona laughed and replied, “I’ve always aspired to this, I think.”

Come again?

"It’s a Protestant thing," she explained (her family is Catholic, although none of them practice now; as I’m sure you know, though, you can never not be the religion you were, not in Ireland).

"I think it comes from the great English country houses. They keep all their fancy jams and mustards out on a side board, and it just seemed the thing to do."

We had a good laugh about that.

Only in Ireland, I thought, for the second time in 20 minutes.

And: it’s great to be back.

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February 28, 2013

The old woman, the old dog, and the sea.

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February 28, 2013

On the anniversary of Cian’s death, his sister and the lads went for a swim in the Forty Foot, an age-old swimming hole at the southern tip of Dublin Bay. He used to swim in all sorts of weather, but that day was particularly bracing. Thick wet snowflakes falling hard and fast, bone-chilling wind, churning waves as cold as they’ve ever been … thank god for hot whiskey waiting in a thermos.

(Me? I watched from the sidelines, just as I did when he was alive. Helped myself to a nip of that whiskey though….)

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