Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Party 2K6

Last night was our Christmas party at work. Some look forward to it, others fear it with last year's hazy memories in mind. K+K, and other firms in the Friary packed it in around 2pm and headed to the Winding Stair Restaurant, a shmancy watering hole along the Liffy River. The food was phenomenal and we topped it off with a Kris Kringle. Someone must have known I had a fever, cuz the only cure for a more cowbell. I'm now the proud owner of a Swiss cowbell. Thank you, Mr. Kearney. After we were watered, fed and merry, everyone headed to the Octagon Bar, official hotel of [drumroll] Bono. The Dubliners thought it was a little taboo to be drinking from the tap of Pope Bono, but since about 80% of the office is non-Irish, nobody cared. Overall: a fantastic night - had a great time and happy we all collectively made outrageously good fools of ourselves (see below).

Tomorrow I'm off to meet up with Uncle Mark and Aunt Shashi in Gloucester where I'll be staying with them till Boxing Day. Really excited to see them.

I'm very thankful to be staying with family over Christmas this year. Sadly I won't be able to see the usual faces over the holidays, but nonetheless I hope everyone back home has a wonderful Christmas with family this year. 2006 has flown by for me. Between school, traveling, it's all one huge blur, but one of the best years of my life. I want to wish everyone the best for the new year and a hearty Gaelic Sláinte (good health!). Miss you all, and sending the best of wishes.

Paul and his new Jazzman Sax

Carsten frowns on Xmas. 'Bah Humbug!'. Carsten is a German landscape architect from Bernard Seymour's office (our host tonight)

Davide, now hooked up with new 'Desktop Girfriend'. Davide is from Sardinia and works with an architect sharing Bernard's office.

Janice (?), probably the least shy person I've met in my life firing her 'Nun Chuck'... yes, it actually catapults miniature nuns. I bought one for myself today.

The Liffy on the way to the Octagon.

The Octogon. Well-named. No argument here.

Ofcourse, a huge thanks to our mastermind host, Bernard.

There's just not enough cowbell in this picture. I think we need more cowbell.

Here's most of the gang from Bernard's Landscape Office. Left-right, as usual: Toni from Germany, Ed from Wexford (south Ireland), Mark next to his mother, from England I think, and Meat aka Allen from County Cork.

With a name like Meat, you can always get away with drinking a fruity Majito.

Dermott on the left, Paul and Maria drifting to starboard.

Good times.

Tickets to the 'Meat Gun-Show' sold here.

Collars up, bottoms up.

Last sight of the Octagon.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Around Dubby

Right down to the end of November has been especially busy at the Friary because my one-month work 'trial' period came to a close. As it turns out, the late nights and early mornings payed off and I'll be staying with K+K for the year [stands and performs happy-dance]. But a helluva lot has happened since then, so here's a glimpse!

Possibly one of the greatest things to encourage my dream to ditch architecture to become a face-melting legendary guitarist happened recently. I caught a show called 'Rock Chic' at the Irish National Gallery which had a collection of legendary (or just really famous) Rickenbacker and Stratocaster guitars, from the very first (which is basically a banjo with a honkin tonkin built-in amplifier, left) to recent ones by Pink Floyd, Van Morrisson, Franz Ferdinand, Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, The Killers, Zeppelin, Bryan Adams (which has a beautiful print of Kate Moss on it) and somehow Lord Richard Rogers (the architect) snuck in there. By far, the best guitar displayed was Rory Gallagher's, an Irishman brought up in Cork. His guitar was just so worn down with a hint of paint on the body. At that moment, I pictured myself standing alone on a smoke-filled stage with foot-long hair and a crowd of ten-thousand with only a single beam of high-voltage light peering down on me and my moody axe.

left-right: Van Morrisson, Pink Floyd, Richard Rogers, The Dubliners...?

I've peeked around a couple galleries since then, but nothing quite as umm, 'chic' as this. However, I made an unexpectedly delightful visit to the Kilmainham Jail (on my own free will). People at work were in praise of the tour, to a bit of self-reluctance, as I've spent enough time in jails on the weekend...[somewhere mum faints]. However, the visit was really good because they dished out all the juicy bits on the 1916 Easter Uprising and...basically the entire history of Ireland with a blatant splash of anti-Brit winging. As the guide was going on about oppression after opression, recession after recession, it all suddenly came together for me as to why I was touring a jail on a beautiful saturday afternoon. The Irish just simply have a really dreary history and the Kilmainham 'Gaol' appropriately happens to be the hub of it all. In fact most Irish tourist spots include crypts, forts, execution sites etc. Throughout the Famine, children and adults were so destitute they were willingly stealing food in order to be better fed in jail than they would at home. The culmination of the Easter Uprising was what really gave the Jail its fame, as the main seven Irish Rebel leaders as well as other famous Irish figures were all rubbed out here. When the tour finished and I left the old Ireland behind me I got a much better understanding of why people are so optimistic these days.

On that note, I've been trying to describe to people the buzz in the city, but it's hard to compare with anything else. I guess the main thing is Dublin is making so much cash everyone is just really giddy. But also, Ireland has such a long tradition of emigration that for the first time in a while, there's excitement about the success of Dublin. Just recently, the European Union has opened their doors to a couple Eastern European countries and the general estimate is that about 200,000 Poles, and 150,000 Lithuanians have immigrated to Dublin within only five years! This is crazy considering the area of Dublin is only 1.1 million people. So as the population is booming, so is the economy. A lot of Dubliners have even said that they don't feel an inferiority complex to Britain anymore because they argue that Dublin is making more money than London! (not quite, but positive thinking). It's also at the point where it's competing on the charts for most expensive cities to live in. In so little time, there has been so much change happening in the city and I guess all this excitement is just in the air.

My favourite pub Cobblestones is in Smithfield, spitting distance from work. The neighbourhood used to be a borderline ghetto but now a lot of businesses are moving in as well as a lot of cultural events. Right now a huge skating rink is set up in the square. The pub's about to fall to the ground, as you can see, but until recently it now opens onto the only public square in Dublin which was recently built. A couple weeks ago at Cobblestones I witnessed possibly the greatest Irish experience when a random bloke just started singing an old Irish hymn between fiddling acts. Everyone in the pub just froze. He had to have been only 23 or so. When he was finished people cheered and tipped their Guinness pints in his direction and the fiddler's started again. It was brilliant!

Somewhere in this random timeline, I hit the International Comedy Club with the James, Melissa, and James' brother Steven. This club had to be the tiniest venue/pub I've ever seen, with desk lamps screwed into the ceiling and a ghetto-blaster plugged in behind the stage with about 80 people crammed shoulder-to-shoulder. The whole show was pure hilarity, and I'll be sure to go back making sure to sit as far back from the front row as possible. An English couple got roasted reeeeal bad yet everyone laughed uncontrollably at their misfortune.

Yesterday, for the first time in a while it was a beautiful sunny day. It tends to rain every morning of the week, clears up in the afternoon and then has a 'soft rain' as they say, at night. So to take full advantage of the day, I cycled to Phoenix Park, just west of my office, past where I was up for the Rock Chic exhibit. The lighting was really nice this day and it picked up all the shades of green - quite a shock after being used to all the grey within the city. The park itself is apparently the biggest 'contained' European park - twice as big as Central Park in New York. There's a whole bunch of random monuments such as the Wellington Monument, as well as the oldest 'European Zoo', and the Irish Embassy at the opposite corner of the American Embassy. It was a whole morning spent cycling aimlessly and just enjoying ... green.

So the countdown to Christmas and the arrival of Jessie, Morgan, Nico and Renee to Dublin has long since been in effect! It's down to 9 nine days till Jessie arrives en-route to Finland where she'll be studying in Helsinki for about a year, and then 10 days till Morgan, Nico, and Renee arrive on their way through to Switzerland/Germany/Italy for the biggest school field trip ever. I await anxiously for our band of Canadian rogues to assemble and collectively sully the city while ringing in the New Year.

Bye for now.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Happy Birthday, Paddy!

Mothers and fathers, lock up your daughters! The Brown Knight is now a sophisticated 18 years old. Be warned as none can resist his breezy cool or rapturous charm. One wink can make a married woman tremble, one handshake strike awe in a grown man. All envy the company of this swashbuckling rogue, and so it is certain that his weekend of antics will be at no shortage of boisterous merrymaking.
From this end, I can only wish further good times.

Happy Birthday, boyo!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Friday Night at the Friary

It's not all work at 10 Friary. Fridays bring out the shenanigans in everyone, but never as wild as this [sarcasm]. Maria Kiernan (far left), shares the practice with Paul Kearney (second from right). Next to Paul on the far right is Agnieszka who has been working for K&K for a year now. Right behind Maria is a sculpture artist who popped in to drop off a granite carving of the K&K logo and receive payment in wine. At the back you see the Swiss-Italian connection - Giaccomo and Elda from southern Switzerland. Giaccomo runs his own practice in Zurich but moved to Dublin with Elda to improve his English. He runs the firm entirely by Skype.
Eventually, the womens coralled the mens into the kitchen to wash dishes which they found overly amusing. I'm not actually as thrilled as I look.

And then the hat swapping...

The Digs

Here's a peek of me new flat. It's outrageously small and cozy. My room is up top behind that wood partition wall above the living room. The housemates, Simone and Frances are both working in Dublin. Simone is from East Germany and works in tourism while Frances from England works at the Institute of Technology. Picked up a set of wheels yesterday to cut the 50min walk down to 15min bike ride.

Through the roof-light I have my own perch where I can devise grandiose theories or hang out with the neighbours with a couple pints. Overall not what I expected, but who can say no to a roof perch?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I'd like to tell an unexaggerated story of my misfortunes today.
I woke up this morning to my 87th rejection from landlord/tenant with a texted message as written:
'had lots of people viewing the flat put all names in a hat am afraid you were not chosen hope you find some where soon emer'
I grumbled into the hostel shower and burned my arm on one of the malfunctioning showers which wouldn't shut off, creating an overly steamed shower room comparable to a sauna. Then attempted the adjacent drip shower which overflowed from a clogged drain. Half-showered and fired up from a 1/2 stale piece of white bread and jam as part of my inclusive breakfast I hobbled in to work. Slipping in to my daily routine tending to server crashes and moody printers (while fitting in drawing time somewhere in between) I set up my 15th house viewing for later in the evening. En-route to the flat, it was raining and I ripped my boss's map before getting splashed by a drive-by. Arriving at the tiny apartment, I rang flat #8 instead of #7 where I was yelled at. Eventually I met Frances and then Cimon who showed me the tiniest place I've seen with the most character! It has to be less than 12' x 8' with a crazy slanted roof, random cubbies, and a skylight that I can crawl out of onto a rooftop perch. I yelled 'SOLD!' in just enough time before the doorbell rang and Mrs. X stepped in only to be escorted out of my new home!
Click on the map, look at the bottom left. I'm in Terenure, about a 45 min walk in to town.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Canada Under Fire

Okay, so I'm startin to sweat here in D-Town. I was put on the spot the other day by my boss...a very simple question, one I should have prepared for before leaving Canada: 'Name a famous Canadian that the world would mildly acknowledge as significant or better'. While I could name off the obvious icons like Wayne Gretzky, Neil Young, or P.E. Trudeau (which were disputed as being as big as Bono), I struggled with naming a Canadian intellectual -gasp! Somehow, Margaret Atwood just doesn't cut it. Help me out! Not that Bono is considered an intellectual, but 'Bigger than Bono'?...please this is killing me.
P.S. Roberta Bondar, and Lester B didn't make the cut and Alexander Graham Bell isn't heard of here.

(Note: I democratically enabled the comments option now, so post away people!)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

1 Year Engaged

Last year at this time, the House of sPain was working overtime on an epic secret plot of engagement to unify the Fraser Party with Campus Klassen. Operation Lovequest v.1.3 was initiated in the Arboretum, across Carleton University at 1800hrs. Labourers from the House of sPain production team manufactured lanterns to lure the unsuspecting Erin 'Efro' Fraser within a willow canopy for marriage proposal with fellow housemate and friend extraordinaire Will Klassen. Celebrations ensued.

Happy #1!
Hello all.
You may have thought (or hoped) I was abducted by the IRA or rubbed out in a drunken Irish brawl, but in fact I'm clinging on to survival and still kickin' around across the pond in Dublin City. It took very little time to acclimatize to the daily epicurean tradition of Guinness and taters since arriving two weeks ago. It took even less effort to get to know the locals and their pubs of preference.

So far, Dublin is the bees-knees. There are so many folks out puttering around all day - the streets are constantly packed, and even at midday, when you would assume folks would be working, the whole place is bumpin' with activity. It's like Ottawa-meets-Tokyo...I've never seen Tokyo, but if it met Ottawa, I think they'd hook up and create Dublin. Just as striking (and often inspiring) is the fact that it's nearly impossible to walk along any street without passing a pub. Coincidentally, the Ottawa pubs 'Elephant & Castle' and 'The Auld Dubliner' may also be found in Dublin. Ofcourse acknowledging this coincidence equates to tipping a pint of Guinness with a wee Irish jig to boot.

Since arriving, I've been on a mission to get settled. I haven't really had the chance to do any touristy stuff yet. I landed and immediately started passing out CV's and finding a home or a sugar mama. Luckily I was able to get a job in the first week but still no place to live - or Mrs. Robinson. By word of mouth, I was able to squeeze in to a 3-person firm called Kearney & Kiernan Architects. It's putting food on the parkbench, as I continue searching for a place to live. This whole issue of finding a flat has (de-)evolved from an initial state of over-confidence to humble desperation. It is incredibly difficult to find a place in the city centre - and the city centre is hands down the best place to be (for obvious reasons). Unfortunately, apartment flats and house shares go like hotcakes here. To illustrate, a vacancy posting on the web can disappear in a matter of hours. This is incredibly annoying, as it keeps me barred behind a hostel which has quickly lost it's novelty. The facilities themselves are secure etc, but lately I've been sharing a room with the foulest smelling people I've ever encountered. Ever.

So here's a shot of my new office. Pretty swank, I gotta say. Extremely lucky to be working here for now. It's in an old friary, as the sign suggests, which was apparently used by monks in the year...errr, 0. It's connected to a monastery at the back. The building has about 5 other design firms and some law offices - appropriately quarantined within heavy barred gates to keep us locked up. They have me doing some conceptual mock-ups of a house in Dublin as well as some interior renovation jobbies. So far it's working out fairly well, but unfortunately they have me on a 1-month trial period. This means work like a fiend to secure 9 more months of bacon and stout.

But work banalities aside, I caught Ryan Odell's (friend from school) brother's wife, Emm Gyner's concert on the second night I was here, as well as a TV on the Radio concert on Tuesday. A number of Canadian bands are chalked up to play on a number of nights this month. Also caught the International Rules Rugby final match between Australia and Ireland (they're the only teams in the league). It was the best entertainment I've seen in a long time. Before the ball dropped, the players were at each other's throats. About 4 fights broke out immediately and then the game started, with no end of play. They just kept on pummelling each other throughout the whole match. In the end, not only did Ireland lose bigtime on the scoreboard, but got whooped in all the fights too.
This was all played in Croke Park, which is the only stadium of its kind in Dublin, and a symbol of nationalism (and chauvanism) as well. The Gaelic Athletic Association doesn't allow anything but Gaelic games to be played on the grounds. That narrows things down to Gaelic Football and ummm...Hurling. Yet amazingly, the stadium fills up with 80,000 crazed fans. The game rules were far from the point of interest in the match - we just wanted to see fists fly.

Oh yea, and the Guinness tastes amazing.

More to come, but that's all for now. Miss you all back home.