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.