The Mad Ones


This bastard and I are having ourselves a little stare-down.

It technically began on Saturday, when I picked him up from the city library; but really, this antagonism has been going on for years.

I don’t like the Beats. There, I said it. Of all the literary generational cliques, this is the one that gets my eyes rolling.

Maybe it’s because I came to the Beats too late; I was already in college by the time I read The Dharma Bums (after a smokin’ hot alum gave me his copy during my semester abroad). I know I read On the Road at some point after that, if for no other reason than I knew I was supposed to, but I wasn’t impressed with any of it and found these guys to be just a little misogynistic.

So we’re reading On the Road for Travel Lit, and I just can’t bring myself to do it. This two-books-a-week nonsense has been going on for a month now, and this is the first one I’m not going to read. NotGonnaDoIt.

The thing is, I’ve already read it once, so this would kind of be a re-read, although the library only had this copy of the original scroll, which leaves the names unchanged and apparently has some gay sex scenes. And I do owe the Beats another chance, seeing how I was kind of a little snot as an undergrad, but I really don’t wanna…

I even poked around online and at the video store for the Kristen Stewart movie (which came out earlier here, for some reason), but it’s not available for another 10 days. Plus, it looks like it bombed in the States.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll flip through it, or if I can find an Irish supplier of whatever drug Kerouac was on when he wrote it, I’ll take some of that and pull another all-nighter (kidding).

Right now, though, I’m more concerned with cleaning out my fridge and pantry. See, I’ve decided to give up dairy for Lent, so I’m spending my Fat Tuesday* eating all the dairy products in my kitchen, which is more difficult than one might imagine, especially considering I just bought myself a Cadbury’s Milk Tray. Happy Valentine’s Day to me!

*Fat Tuesday is called Pancake Tuesday here. It is endearing to see all of Ireland and the UK obsessing over pancakes, but I find their final fling before Lent a bit lacking in ambition.

Travelling and Writing and Traveling


Back in Galway again, after two weeks of traveling the British Isles. Feels good to be… home?

A decade ago, when I was on my London semester abroad, I took a course called Traveling and Writing. It was more or less a writing workshop where we shared personal essays about our experiences in a new culture.

I didn’t have a laptop at the time, so I would always type my papers in the computer lab of the study abroad office. We were in central London, so all the computers were set to British English, not American English. Spellcheck behaved a bit differently:

American English = Traveling

British English = Travelling

For an entire semester, I turned in essays for my Traveling and Writing class with a heading that included my name, the date, and the name of the course: Travelling and Writing. I actually became convinced that was how traveling was spelled, which took a while to unlearn once I got back home.

I have been thinking about that combination a lot over the past two weeks: Traveling and Writing or even Travelling and Writing. We’re in the middle of finals at school right now, but because all my finals are 5,000-word essays, and the appeal of a writing career is that one can do it anywhere, I decided to take this show on the road and write one of my essays whilst travelling (“whilst travelling” – doubly British).

It worked. I missed out on some stuff, but we planned the trip accordingly and with my writing habits in mind (performs best under a deadline). I really wouldn’t mind a life of Traveling and Writing.

“This is the brightest timeline.”


I’m sitting at JFK, waiting to board an international flight.

Exactly ten years ago, I was in this very same place, having roadtripped from Texas to NYC to hop a flight for a semester in London. I tend to think of this as my Sliding Doors moment.

My family life was in shambles. My best friend accused me of running away from my problems. I was demonstrating the early signs of an alcohol addiction. The guy I was traveling with, my partner in crime, cared so little about me that months later, after we had seen the world together and arrived back in Texas, he would abandon me at the baggage carousel in Houston airport so his family wouldn’t see us leaving the arrivals gate together.

I often think that the decision to get on that plane ten years ago was the point of no return. Up until then, it might have been possible to turn things around. I could have spent more time with my family; I know I was not capable of fixing everything, but I would have equally shared in the suffering. I might have gotten my grades up, maybe taken an internship that would have advanced my career. I would have waited to turn 21 like every other American, instead of jumping the queue by spending a semester in a country with a lower drinking age.

I know, I know: hindsight is 20/20. It’s possible I just had to struggle, regardless of location or which friends were by my side or the relative ease of access to alcohol. I believe I simply had to wander aimlessly for a while.

I think this is where the timelines merge. If we end up where we’re supposed to, no matter our mistakes, then this is where it all starts to make sense. Instead of looking back on this as a moment I regret, I can look back at this as the moment when I finally came into my own.

It’s funny, because I’m looking around at groups of undergrads who are flying away toward semesters abroad and piles of self-discovery. If someone had asked me back then where I thought I would be in ten years, I would have said, “I have no idea.”

If that someone had then told me I would be in this very same airport, heading to Ireland for grad school… I think I would have been okay with that.