Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In Which I am a Super Brat

The first time I went to Ireland, it was an adventure. I met up with a friend from college who'd been playing rugby in Newcastle all summer (I love saying that. It makes me feel bastardly urbane). We went to the pony races and drank and gambled, we tried to hitchhike across the countryside in Kerry (we failed). We stripped while running into the ocean on the Dingle peninsula and fought a group of raging Irishmen at a bar in Dublin because they called me a "feisty filly" and basically had a brilliant, drunken time. It was very tense and masculine and obnoxious. Very Hemingway.

Okay, I didn't strip running into the ocean, because apparently my recklessness chokes on puritanical horseshit. But he did, my friend. I rolled up my pants like a fucking champ and took pictures.

This time around I was with my family instead of friends. First vacation the Rossi Family has taken, just the five of us, in ten years. Sure, we did Vegas when the Yellavitch turned 21, but that was like this big fat extended family thing, and the grandkids all split from the older generations for most of the trip.

So when my parents decided that they wanted to take us to Ireland, we were excited because you know, fucking Ireland. I felt spoiled at first, being 29 and having my parents take me Europe, but I justified it eventually with a thick list of trembling excuses that basically added up to one thing: who cares, you're going to fucking Ireland.

Okay, so I'm still a little uncomfortable with the fact that my parents took me on vacation. I offered to pay my way. They refused.

Last year, my parents left the US for the first time in their lives and took a tour around Italy. It stirred this deep, tour-obsessed Goliath within The Dad, who declared he would never travel without a tour ever again. I spent weeks explaining that Ireland was different from Italy, Dad, you don't want to be constrained on a tour there...it's an exploring kind of place, not a museums-and-monuments-and-art kind of place.

But being the adamant financial backer, The Dad insisted that I did not know what I was talking about. A tour, he said, would be easier. We wouldn't be responsible for blah and blah and blah, he said, it would all be decided for us.

I accepted. Because fuck yeah, Ireland.

Previously within my family, I was the one who calmed people down with a lame joke or something, because I'm as close as a Rossi gets to the soothing waters of lazy, pastoral relaxation nation. This of course sounds ridiculous to my friends, who all know that I'm neurotic and insecure about everything.

For the first several days I was okay. Even though I was slightly annoyed at being held inside when I wanted to explore, we were let out periodically to stretch our legs and spend money at pre-arranged restaurants and touristy stores. Granted, we probably would have ended up at some of those places whether or not we were on a tour, but that doesn't change the fact that I had a burning, itching yen to pluck my own destinations on whim.

For awhile, I distracted myself by counting cows and befriending some of the senior citizen stocked on the tour bus, but they were only chatty for so long. Eventually all conversations meandered towards my fidgetty eyes, and they would mention offhand that I seemed anxious. As politely as possible, I'd tell them that I wanted to stop in places the bus was tearing through, and they would nod. I'd change the subject. We passed through towns and ruins of towns, and all I wanted to do was jump the hell off that fucking bus and get lost out there.

By the fourth day, when I discovered that we were not going to Skellig (which is on my list) but in fact watching a video at the Skellig museum, I had a minor breakdown. With quiet tears. I tried to keep it in, I really, really did, but holding me captive on a tour bus in a land of cool green hills and beer is like building a cage of lambchops for a muzzled terrier, with a whole lot of whimpering and growling and general pathetic impotence.

So I was on the bus, staring out the window, sniffing.

Katsisch started without looking up. "You okay?"

"I'll be fine." Sniff.

"Obviously you're not fine."

I didn't want her to see my eyes. "I do not want to talk about it."

"You're being a brat, you know," she stated calmly, flipping a page of her book.

"Which is why I shouldn't talk about it."

"Why can't you just enjoy yourself?"

"I am not going to be able to if you don't drop it."

"Why are you acting like such a fucking baby?"

"I'm sorry." I turned and started counting cows out the window. Counting cows was calming, distracting. It kept my brain busy and focused on observation. To properly count cows, you must be moving constantly, scanning the fields. This was the positive side of riding the bus: better for cow counting. Landscape, animals, and math always lead to daydreams. It was a releasing distraction.

Twenty seconds later, Katsisch interrupted my counting. "You know, it's not that big of a deal. So we don't get to go to a stupid monastic island. World's still here."

"Please, I'm embarrassed enough right now." I wiped under my eyes with my sleeve.

"Do you realize how much you are insulting Mom and Dad?"

I snapped. "Do you fucking realize that I am trying to get over this as quickly as fucking possible, and you are not diffusing the fucking situation?"

"Okay, you need to stop being a fucking brat right now. You are completely overreacting, and this is totally inappropriate."

"Maybe if we were actually doing stuff instead of watching the world go by, I could enjoy myself."

"See, this is what I'm talking about," Katsisch hissed, finally glaring up from her book, "you think you're superior because the rest of us don't mind just riding to the next destination that has been chosen for us. Because we do not care. We all know that by complacently sitting on this bus we are not relinquishing our control over destiny. This is a vacation. This is not a metaphor for life."

Awestruck. I opened my mouth, cracking my jaw sideways. "What the fuck are you talking about?"

"I know that you think you're too 'free-spirited' and 'different' to be willing to just do something so 'mainstream' but you need to get over that insecurity. No one cares except for you."

So apparently the issue at hand, always, in every disagreement I have with anyone, is my distaste for all things 'mainstream.' Do I really come across like that? I tried to explain myself. "I am upset because I've dreamed of Skellig for seven years, and I've been imagining it in my brain and looking forward to this trip for fucking months."

"I've always wanted to go to Greece, and we're not going there."

"But you didn't have it dangling in front of you. I thought that I was finally going to get to go to one of the impossible places that I never expected I would actually be able to see. And then the day I've been waiting for gets here and I find out that it was never on the itinerary in the first place, but here's a fucking video. We are twenty miles away. I am twenty miles away and I can't get there." This was killing me.

"Yeah, well, this isn't about you."

"You made it about me. I was trying to count cows."

"You were feeling sorry for yourself, because you think you're entitled and oppressed."

Arguing was pointless, and I was too shocked to respond. What the fuck? I felt snotty and unappreciative, and have I always been such a fucking gremlin without realizing it? I had no idea that people had such a negative impression of me. Does everyone really feel that way about me? Or is it just my sister?

I decided my behavior must change. I reminded myself that I was being horrible and ridiculous and batshit crazy, and no one likes self-loathing. But when the time comes to prove to myself that I've grown, I will probably revert back to being a whiny, frustrated bitch.

Didn't talk for a long while. Counted cows again.

The tour ended the next day and we spent a couple days in Dublin on our own, and that was excellent. The Dad and I went to about seven million bookstores and had a couple beers while my mom and sisters went to the Guinness Brewery (I'd already been there, and Dad said, "You've seen one brewery, you've seen them all."). We all fell in love with the long room library at Trinity College and I added "bind a book by hand" to my list of things to do before I die. I convinced the family to see the dead zoo at the Natural History Museum. Mom wouldn't go inside, the sisters did a quick walk through, called me a "creeper" and got the hell out of there, and Dad thought it was awesome. It's still one of my favorite museums of all time, because it's rugged and packed with insanity.

So...that's how Ireland was.



Chamuca said...

Yeah, the only vacations I've been on in the past 10 years were road trips in college, or ones my parents paid for.

And you aren't a brat, simply because you know you're being one.

Rassles said...

I was so stressed out for the whole first half of the trip, it was hard to enjoy it. I suck.

Ellie said...

Oh. Boy.

You are fucking awesome.

You do not suck. Traveling to the beat of a different drummer is fucking hard. One does the best one can. Sometimes that's with tears.

You should have headbutted your sister.

Wynn said...

You're not a brat. Every time I get a glance at the opportunity to travel to an island that I love more than anything and that glance is crushed by reality, I cry. Mostly just a little, but half a tear always frees itself from my eye.

You don't need to be a brat because you're passionate about something. Being so close and still so far away, I know the feeling.

I'm sure you'll get there one day.

MoLinder said...

cemetery. you lose all your cows

Anonymous said...

I love counting the rows of lettuce when I drive down the 101 from the Bay Area to Los Angeles. It's always better when I'm not the driver for obvious reasons.

Anywho, traveling reveals your humanness. We are all weak sometimes. We are all strong sometimes. In all different ways.

Feel good that you honor yourself and your feelings.


formerly fun said...

Tours suck ass, spontaneousness rules. Even if it's lame at least it's lame on your terms.

BTW my word ver is stera like "stera the bus to Skellig"

Logical Libby said...

I have never gone on a family vacation where my sisters and I did not end up in an all out screaming match. It's a tradition.

At least you didn't feed her to a Leprachaun.

renalfailure said...

This must be why I haven't vacationed with anyone I'm related to since I was 14. Why I haven't taken a real vacation since that time is another set of issues.

JMH said...

Now that's intense. Individual dreams held deeply against familial obligations. Your sister (your sister?) is astute, but I'm on your side.

I can feel the awfulness of that bus ride. But the agony -- that must have been itself exquisite in a bad way, and enduring it a monastic celebration of the suffering of the flesh, like so many monks before you on that island.

M. said...

this is the first time i read something of yours and felt that we were completely aligned mentally.

except not, because you handled it maturely. I would've gone down my sister's throat and called her out on her insecurity.

Everyone hates a pity party.

But sometimes you need to throw yourself a proper one in order to get over shit.

Blues said...


I had something really similar happen to me in Ireland with my younger sister. Not the traveling thing, but she ended up making me question what kind of person I really was and it sucked. Sisters can be mean little bitches like that and not know when to let up.

Not to rub it in, but you're right about Ireland. I was there for six weeks once on my own with nowhere to be except wherever I wanted to be. I wound up at music festivals and on crazy tiny islands and on beaches and in pubs and met people I'll never ever forget. I would travel with people for awhile and then if they annoyed me, I'd wish them well and go the opposite way.

On the other hand, I have done the family vaca a couple of times to Hawaii where I paid for nothing and had to do what everyone else thought was fun which was totally lameness.

When I travel I never do group shit, unless it's a tour through a monument so I can learn about it. I like to do stuff myself and go where the mood takes me. There's no other way to go. I suppose that works though when you travel on your own or with one or two other people with a similar attitude. For a family of five, I can see this being impossible and can understand your Dad's view.

Sorry you missed Skellig.

So when the hell are you coming to Spain?

Anonymous said...

I was going to leave a funny comment asking whether or not you tried the berries on dingle but then this got kind of depressing, but then I just left it anyway.

I would have been upset too, and probably a little bratty in this situation. Good thing is that you have lots of time in life to go back and do it your way.

Kitty said...

I won a trip to England with a bunch of Realtors and skipped out on over half of the activities to cut my own path. I'm sure in the end they all hated my snobby ass.

But I was miserable on that tour bus. Not my thing either.

And damn, I am so glad I let my kids chose over half the things we see on our travels. It always makes it a much better trip.

Guess what? We just got back from Pompeii. Damn straight, man. Pompeii.

Anonymous said...

was the entire trip a tour? i could go on a 2-hour tour or something but nothing like a whole trip.

i saw a tour bus in chicago yesterday that said LAMERS on the side. i was cracking up b/c i was thinking THAT'S WHAT'S INSIDE THE BUS!!!!

Jacob said...

Tours for foreigners should never include segments that could have been recreated at home, like the video thing. I could have watched that at home.

And I agree with you. The less planned and more freedom I have on a vacation the better. I want to wander. I don't even like making lodging reservations because that means I'll need to actually be somewhere at a certain time.

A Free Man said...

Tours suck. The only people on tours who are Americans - who are scared of the locals because they all hate them - and Germans - who are obsessed with order and need to be told exactly what to do.

Del-V said...

I'm going to Italy on Monday with my parents. We are renting a car and going to all the off-beat places. I'll post photos on my blog someday... I swear!

Thanatos said...

Sounds like an awesome trip, overall. Are there any Indians in Ireland?

Jacob said...

I think A Free Man also forgot about all of the Japanese and Chinese tourists. A tour of Japanese tourists once came to my tiny town, got off the bus, picked cotton from a field near my house and rode away. We don't have any gift shops here so they didn't have anything else to do.

Here In Franklin said...

If you liked the dead zoo, you'd probably love the catacombs in Paris.

Sid said...

Ha. I went to Italy and didn't do the whole tour thing. I wanted to "stumble" across things. I didn't want to leave when someone said I should. I wanted to experience Italy. One thing I do regret is not having enough cash to listen to audio tapes. Or someone to explain the history of monuments. I feel like I missed out someone how.

Rassles said...

Ellie: Well, thanks. Even though I never considered myself as someone who travels with Other Drummers and all that. Because I figure, I mean, everyone believes they have their own beat. Excepts for the nihilists. They don't believe in anything.

Wynn: Thank you, friend. I hope I do.

MoL: I got the sisters ALL UP in that game.

Meems: Thanks.

FF: Agreed, agreed, agreed, agreed, agreed. STERA.

Libby: I fucking tried, though.

RF: Homebody.

JMH: Well, now my problems seem trivial compared to the monks. Now I feel brattier. Thanks. Jerk. (please note that whenever I call anyone a jerk it is sarcastic. Thank you.)

Mae: You're so pretty.

Blues: Thank you for saying I was right instead of just elaborating and trying to be even righter. More right. You know what I mean.

OG: NO I didn't get dingleberries. This is bullshit.

Kitty: It might make a better trip, but I understand where my dad is coming from. He's a fucking basketcase and a planner, down to the clock. It is so much better having ME stressed out than having HIM stressed out, because he stresses everyone else out. Does that make sense?

Jessica: Five days. The tour was five days. I went bonkers.

Jacob: I am completely with you. On all points.

Freeman: Actually, we didn't have a lot of Americans on the tour. I thought there would be more. But There was just one other American group of siblings in their fifties, an Indian family, some Fronchies, and the remaining like twenty or so were from Australia or New Zealand. But you're damn right about ze Germans, those structural bastards.

Del-V: I don't believe anything is truly off-beat anymore, with the exception of the moon. Or Uranus. BOOM! I am on FIRE.

Thanny: There were Indians on our tour, actually. That's about it, though.

HIF: Totally, the catacombs in Paris are creepy as all get out. But they didn't give me the shivers nearly as much as that museum. The animals are all mealy and real and stitched together like zombies. Eerie and excellent. The Capucin Crypt in Rome was pretty excellent, too.

Sid: I did the same thing in Italy, except I had This book with me, which made shit way interesting.

The Ambiguous Blob said...

The only tour I've been on was an African safari. Because there was NO WAY I was going to drive myself around unsecured and clueless all over that kind of rough neighborhood.

I was a complete bitch on my last family vacation. At one point, in DC, I said- I don't give a fuck about this Jefferson rock carving. It's fucking raining and i'd rather sit in the car.

daisyfae said...

i was on that bus with my sister. except it was a weekend in bangkok. she wanted to get oriented and see as much as possible and i wanted to wander around. we compromised and signed up for a one day tour.

the entire time, she kept asking if i hated it. if i was miserable. how badly did it torment me.

i didn't count cows. i spent much of the time wondering how long it would take the authorities to find her body in one of the canals.

you'll get back there, and you'll do it your way. i'm not confused about that...

grumpy said...

Ouch. Sisters know how to get right to the core of you - real or imagined.

Maybe a bit bratty - but I only know that cos I am the biggest one I know. But like Chamuca says, sorta negates it if you realise it.

Anonymous said...

If I had to sit on a tour bus riding by all the cool things, I would pluck out my eyelashes and wipe them on someone near me.