Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Sort of Homecoming

Sixteen hours traveling with three kids on three flights, one of whom is 15 months old and not fond of sitting still. The check in lady in SFO was so distracted by her daughter calling her cell phone to organise collecting her, that she screwed up our seats. For two of the three flights we were scattered around the plane and had to seat swap as people boarded after us - never a whole lot of fun for all concerned. Then, when we arrived in Heathrow, it turns out most of northern Europe is blanketed in thick fog, and our flight to Shannon is delayed by over two hours. When we finally get on the plane, it sat on the runway for an hour before take off. We finally arrive in Shannon but our luggage does not. It is twenty minutes in an empty arrivals hall before an Aer Lingus customer service person arrives to help.


Even though the check in lady at SFO screwed up our seats, (she did so in the pursuit of getting us bulkheads), the air hostesses on all flights were incredibly helpful. A very nice English woman, studying violin in L.A (and lives there without a car!!), gave up her seat to sit beside three young children for 10 hours, which helped our family get seats together and ensured that the couple who had to move as a result also got to sit together. A lovely old couple sitting beside us in Heathrow kept complimenting our kids, saying how good they were, and the Aer Lingus hostesses on the flight to Shannon went above an beyond to get us seats together (this has been my experience in general with Aer Lingus, they get the kid thing). My parents were waiting for us, and when we got home, there was whiskey. Good whiskey - Tyrconnell single malt whiskey. I went to bed tired, happy, and mildly drunk. I suspect this will be the pattern for the coming days.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sunset Twilight

General Irving St with family_20061202_0043_1

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bay Daze

The last week has brought a lovely batch of sunny, clear days, nary a cloud to be found.* Our new office is right on San Francisco bay and I had my camera in my bag the other day. My eyes were dry and scratchy from hours staring at the computer screen, so I took a break and walked down to the water to snap a few shots - this is one of them. It reminds me of a painting that hung in my grandparents' living room for decades. It was garish, thick oil painting of a boating scene and the colors and effect were similar to this photograph. I never particularly liked the painting, but the scene fascinated me - it was far from sunny days on boats we were reared! The colors in that painting were in stark contrast to the drab, dull country house my grandparents lived in. I used to hate visiting my mother's parents, even though I liked them. They lived in a small town, and we always went to visit on Sunday when the place was a ghost town. All the shops and bars were closed, and you could stand on the main street and not see a car or a person all afternoon. I was usually bored out of my skull. A child of the suburbs, I was not interested in small country towns where they only had black and white TVs and everyone spent Sundays sitting around drinking tea, gossiping about people I barely knew. The only distractions were the Sunday tabloids that lay scattered on the couch. I would pretend to read the Irish Times, within which I could hide “The News of The World,” with the topless models on page three.

My maternal grandmother was a whip smart, highly-strung woman, who in retrospect, was probably completely unsuited to raising eight children. She was a prisoner of her times and her children took all of her time, of course. And sadly, once they had grown, she was left stuck in a small town with no outlet for her intelligence. Even in her latter days, when her body had become feeble and her mind troubled, her brain was still razor sharp. She was up to date on current events and the details of my life in America. I was her first grandchild, and she made no bones about the fact that I was a favorite! She died the day my son Shane was born (our first child who would have been her first great-grandchild), and only a few short weeks after her husband of over 60 years (my grandfather), had passed away.

I barely knew my grandfather, he was a ghostly presence around the house, and barely spoke from one end of the day to the other - or as far as I could tell, from one end of the year to the other. In his latter years, though, it was like the fog had lifted, and when I went to visit him, he would happily chatter away, while chewing happily on the Roses chocolates I would bring. He had been a master plasterer his entire life, and by all accounts, was a total perfectionist. During the very last conversation I ever had with him, he told me he had played the saxophone in a marching band when he was younger. I was then struck, and saddened, by how little I knew about him. I could hardly imagine music coming from this quiet old man. My mother's family is a stark contrast to my father's who are a gregarious bunch who revel in detailing highly exaggerated family histories (my paternal grandfather apparently attempted and failed to escape from Limerick jail,while being held by the British).** Every single one of them are charming romantics, and the McDermott family lineage is apparently full of lost loves, thrill-seekers, mysterious lost relatives, and revolutionaries - if you believe all the stories. For years I considered myself more like my dad's side of the family, but as I get older, I see more and more of my mother in me. I am a perfectionist to a fault, I am completely pragmatic in every part of my life, and while I listen to other peoples opinions, I more often than not follow my own instincts.

* It takes me a while to write a blog entry, and since I began this one, it has started raining. The winter is here.

** My dad still swears this is true.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Two of My Favorite Things

The first is a circa 1961 Vox AC 30 guitar amplifier. This was, and is, a favorite of the early Beatles, The Edge, Tom Petty, Brian May, and Radiohead, to name a few. It is renowned for its lovely chiming tone at low and medium volumes, and a sweet, singing distortion when turned up higher. I was lucky to pick this up for a hundred quid in Sammy Benson’s music shop, back in Limerick, sometime in the 80's. It was old even then, and I really didn't know what a steal I was getting. Tube amps fell out of fashion in the eighties, until everyone discovered that the amps that replaced them sounded like shit. I've probably spend the bones of a grand refurbishing it over the years, but plug in my Les Paul, turn the amp half way up, and it sings. Also, I could easily turn my original investment into a couple of thousand if I sold it on eBay. These amps are highly prized, and relatively rare. They are also cantankerous as all get out, but at 46 it needs a little love and care. Circuits designed to last ten years are well past their prime . I see the amp repair guy at Haight St Music Center so often that all I have to do is say is, "It's John" when I call, and he knows who I am. He loves this amp even more than I do!

The other is a late model human who didn't cost a dime to make, but will probably see us out-of-pocket half a million over his first twenty years! Like the amp, he has his difficult moments, but mostly he’s a curious sweetheart. And right now, he weighs a LOT less than the very heavy amp.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 01, 2006

Economics Lessons

Maya: "Daddy, I need new sunglasses."

She is playing with a pink kids' pair that are missing the left lens.

Me: "No you don't. We can fix these."

Maya: "No Daddy, they are too smaaaaaaaaaaaall."

Maya likes to elongate words when she needs to emphasize something to someone who is obviously too dumb to get it the first time.

Me: "But I don't have any money."

Maya: "You doooooooooo."

Me: "No. Daddy is broke. That means he doesn't have any money."

A few moments of thoughtful silence...

Maya: "Daddy?"

Me: "Yes Maya?"

Maya: "Why don't you buy some more money?"