Monday, March 23, 2009

Mixed Nuts

My neighborhood



It's a long way from the rugged streets of Belfast to the manicured lawns of suburban Northern California. Craig and I took a gruelling 11 hour flight last Saturday. Long flights are the bane of my existence but I can't say it wasn't interesting along the way. From Belfast to New Jersey, we met a lovely couple from Portadown. They are spending a two week holiday on the westside: 4 days in San Francisco, 4 days in LA, and 4 days in Vegas. Craig never understood how people can spend so little time in one place and move on to the next. Where's the fulfillment in that? I couldn't agree more but maybe they don't intend on visiting that part of the country ever again so they pack it all in two weeks. Whatever floats their boat! When we arrived in New Jersey, we chilled at the bar until our next flight. I was the only wimp who drank responsibly and ordered cranberry juice while the other three downed four pints! Before they went on to an earlier flight, we exchanged numbers so we can meetup in the city for dinner (and drinks).

From New Jersey to San Francisco, we met two dapper young gentlemen who are computer game designers. They are spending a week in San Francisco to attend a gaming convention. Both live just outside Belfast. They've never been to San Francisco and they were very excited. I really appreciated their constant barrage of probing questions about San Francisco. One important question was, "Where are the good Irish pubs in San Francisco?" I tell them there are none. You'd have to go to Ireland for that. They laughed. But all joking aside, I told them to check out the Sunset District because that's where most of the Irish in San Francisco reside. It's considered Little Ireland. You're bound to find a close to authentic pub there. My only respite from the barrage of questions was when the three of them had a drinking party! Yes, another one! Surprise, surprise! While Craig ordered his second, I was thinking how plastered he was going to be when my parents pick us up from the airport. Just great, my dad would love that. Fortunately, it didn't even make a dent.

It's so nice to be back home but it feels kind of different, kind of off. Like it isn't my home anymore, maybe because it's true. Nevertheless, it's nice to see my old room which hasn't changed since I left. Everything is in its original place.

We've been here two days so far and we've done fuck all because I fell ill. The first night I couldn't sleep because I was freaking out I was having a heart attack. I went to the ER the next day and found out it was only heartburn/acid reflux. The US healthcare system was a first for Craig. He couldn't get over the fact that I had to take my wallet out 3 times. One to pay for my initial visit, another to pay for my EKG, and another to pay for my meds. (Thank goodness I am still covered by insurance.) He was looking at the price list in the X-ray lab and couldn't believe how outrageous they were! But he was really impressed with the facilities, everything looks new and state of the art, everything is run efficiently. He was especially impressed with the wait time. There was no wait basically. And he says the doctors are different here, better bedside manners and they spend more time with patients. He says the NHS treats you like you're on an assembly line. "I guess you get what you pay for", he says.

Later in the day, Craig and my mom had their one on one time. They were watching the news in the living room. My mom asks, "So I heard on the news people are killing each other again in Northern Ireland? Why do the Catholics and Protestants hate each other?"

Craig responds in the most watered down, simplest kindergarten terms,"Well, there are some people who want to remain part of the UK. There are some people who want to break away from the UK and become a country with the Republic of Ireland. And there are some people who want to break away from the UK and become its own country."

My mom pauses for a moment and blinks. Then she says, "Oh. You want some mixed nuts?".

Craig bursted out laughing and says, "Yes, I wouldn't mind some. Northern Ireland is full of them."

1 comment:

Mr Ulster said...

"Why do the Catholics and Protestants hate each other?"

Classic. I had my family clan well briefed for my wife-then-girlfriend's first visit to America. Except for Grandma's new friend who asked Madame Oui directly, "So you're from Northern Ireland? That's where there's a civil war, right?"

Likewise, I use to tire of the "is it safe?" question, and giving a defensive answer of how Belfast was so much safer than most American cities, etc. After a year or so, I started to answer that question, "Well, pretty safe. But every now and then you hear the rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire and you jump into the hedges." "Reeelly?" (Oh, for Christ's sake, learn some sarcasm!)