Matt pointed out that I haven't really talked about Derry itself all that much. I briefly talked about the changes in architecture and landscape and farm animals between Westport and Derry, and I wrote about Bushmills and the Causeway, and about our life. But not so much about Derry itself. That's remiss of me. I was telling our really good friend Eddie last night--standing outside, cobble stoned street lightly angling downwards, him with a Stirling cigarette and a Guinness, one in each hand, me with a Magner's Pear Cider, because you can take your drinks outside around here--about my undergraduate thesis. A lot of it involved, in a background way, how literature can help shape a mythology about a city, or give other people an idea of what the city's like, what its atmosphere is and how one might generally characterize its citizens. I would love to do that for Derry, to succinctly characterize its people, but that would just be shortchanging it all. There are so many cool facts about its construction and design, such as that its wholly intact city walls have never been breached, and there are so many sad facts about its place in the history of "the Troubles," or the fighting that took place from 1969 to 1972 in Northern Ireland, such as that more than 3,000 people died throughout it. I could point out the immediacy of that versus the length of the history that led to it; I could talk about how bizarre it is to feel such affinity towards those Irish who wanted to be independent of British rule, as a Jewish woman, while those same Irish have a very strong feeling about supporting Palestine. But in the end, to summarize as promised, all that I really want to say about Derry was that I was expecting it to be a changeover from the end of the walking tour and arriving in Belfast, and it turned out to be a perfect place. Strangers who knew I was clearly a visitor, who knew I might be a bad American or a terrible stereotypical tourist, took the chance, came up to me and just introduced themselves, asked why I'd come to Derry and did I like it--and more, asked me where I was from, what that was like, what kind of work I've done and what else I like to do in life, and what kinds of books I like and where else I've gone. Everything, they were just interested in everything! The best thing was, they talked back. More than just wanting to hear about me, they wanted to share about them, things that some at home would be shocked to hear a relative stranger tell you. I don't know if that character is Derry wholesale, or that Matt and I just happened to meet a few of the right types who helped us find the right places to have those fantastic, genuine experiences, but it was this gem of an experience. I've traveled before and made what I think of as "trip friends," people I hug and love and over share with for two, three days, and then I never see them again, though maybe we're Facebook friends. People I met in Derry, I want them to come visit me, to stay at my house and email with me until they do, I want to go visit them wherever they are, travel more with them. I have some lifelong friends I wouldn't extend an invitation like that to! So that's that, vehement and gushing.
London! There's songs and movies and famous plays and novels about it, and there are billions of Americans I know who have been there or studied there who are like London fanboys and fangirls for it, as though there's a cult of Londonphiles, stranger and stronger than Anglophiles. How fascinating! There's so much enthusiasm in them that I can't help but be... intrigued--and I've been here more than once. Still, if you had asked me yesterday about it, I'd have said, because I was, that I was more interested in having our own space for a while, because all I'd been hearing recently was silly tourists who were studying in London--"Oh. My. GOD! London's THE BEST!" and travelers I've met who say, "Oh, London's shit, the people are mean, the food's only okay, but the art's good--go to Camden, go to this 'shire, go for a day and head straight to ----." And now that I'm here, and this house is so cool, and we have hosts who are American but who have been living in London for 10 years, the best of both worlds, and I'm super excited. I want to be swept up, I want to be reminded of some stories of London that I love, including The Picture of Dorian Gray, Pygmalion, Falling Angels, Down and Out in Paris and London. I want to try to find the Londons I've seen depicted in so many movies that I love: Shakespeare in Love, Snatch, some of Enchanted April, An Ideal Husband (adapted from a lovely Oscar Wilde play--can't forget him), About A Boy, Match Point... And the lure of art: I haven't been to the Art Institute in Chicago in more than a year, a record for me, I think; merely reading da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Van Gogh, "rooms stuffed with Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek and Roman antiquities" (Lonely Planet's Europe on a Shoestring), Blake, Bacon, Moore, even Rothko, makes me shiver! I can't wait to drag Matt around and hopefully do a not-overwhelming job of explaining to him what I love so much about painting, and how the art is connected to things he finds more interesting, like politics and history and literature. Plus... I might buy some new clothes, like a few sweet dresses or a nice belt or a cardigan, and some shoes that are good for walking but aren't hiking boots, and good for hot weather, but aren't tacky Miami U flip-flops (or, thongs, as they're called here). And used bookstores! Massive gardens! Day trips to see things that were built and no one knows how, like Stonehenge!
To top it all off: there's a roof garden patio type thing here, and a bathtub!!
You can tell how wonderful life is because of all of my exclamation points. If this were a novel and I were reading it because someone else had written it, I'd put it down and mutter, "F***in' over-usage of exclamation points--stupid moron fool idiot overexcited overenthusiastic unoriginal hack..."