All Aboard the Oscar Wilde.

7 Jun
Here she is, looking snappy.

Here he is, looking dapper.

Oscar Wilde wrote many things that many people enjoyed.  He is also a large ferry.  Few people know that Oscar Wilde was, and currently is, a ferry.  Okie dokie, enough lighthearted but possibly offensive wordplay  The  Oscar Wilde was the name of the ship that would carry us from Cherbourg, France to Rosslare, Ireland.   While on board this ship, shenanigans abound.  This is a recap of said shenanigans.

It would be the final leg of the journey.  The last major migration before settling into the old abandoned mansion we had made our home that first week, which now, seemed a life-time ago.  There was an excitement-for both Hodge and I–to return home and resume the grind, to tell everyone of our adventures, to be able to speak to strangers, to be considered well-traveled…However, that excitement was tempered, if not drowned-out by a sneaking feeling of dread.   I was facing a bevy of infuriatingly overblown obstacles due to several innocent, little legal blunders I executed a couple weeks before the trip.   Nothing crazy, by some standards, but enough to shake-up a 21 year old preparing to strike out on his own.  I had already retained a lawyer who petitioned the judge to delay the trial since I had purchased non-refundable tickets prior to being arrested.  The judge acquiesced and away I went.  Perhaps I will dive more in depth into this whole situation one day, but today is not that day.

Anyways, fuck all that  depressing nonsense, the ship was gorgeous.  I guess my expectations were set so low that anything larger than a floating four car garage would have impressed me.  But this was more of a cruise ship than a ferry.  After all, the trip was 28 hours, a venture that could breed some seriously foul reactions from claustrophobics, drunks, rabble-rousers or any other passengers with shenanigan-related-illnesses affected by being stuck in a small place for too long.  No, the Oscar Wilde was a big ol’ boat.  It had enough sights and activities to occupy the most restless and irritating child.  It had bars for that child’s parents to drown the sorrow of producing such offspring.  Three bars, in fact, if you count the restaurant/theatre where drinks could also be purchased.  There was a large gift shop–more like a small super market–on the bottom floor that sold shitty trinkets with Irish flags and Oscar Wilde quotes, but, also sold junk food, liquor, blankets and anything else a man may need to survive in Suburbia.  Also on the ship were: a movie theater, high end steakhouse, daycare and various emergency facilities. The upper deck was open with benches along the perimeter and clustered in the middle.

First thing we did was buy some supplies from the gift shop.  My intentions were pure and generous.  I wanted to buy some gifts for my parents and brother before I spent the tiny bit of money I had remaining on bath salts and cheese.  The ‘gifts’ at the giftshop were predictably cheap and shallow.  Nothing that would mean a spoonful of pig shit thing to a loved one, I doubt there was anything made remotely close to Europe in the Irish part of the gift shop.  I had procrastinated and now I was running out of places where I could buy uniquely European things…. I had been sending clever postcards to friends and family all though-out the trip, but I had slacked on gifts.  Now, I was panicking, eyeing fleece couch blankets with Oscar Wilde’s huge face emblazoned on one side, mugs with a road map of Dublin and worst of all, ornamental Irish ‘license plates’ with names printed on them.  It was all trash, and I gave up quickly.  With family and friends totally out of the picture, I began spending the money I had allotted for the trip on necessities.  I walked out of the gift shop with a bottle of Baileys Irish Cream, a bottle of Vodka, that useless license plate and a granola bar.  Hodge purchased some wine and some bread.  Together we were prepared for our night aboard the Oscar Wilde.

There was a half-assed plan in place to really tightly monitor our financial situation so as not to starve to death waiting for our flight home.  I had approximately 300 US dollars remaining, Hodge had slightly less and Joe was somewhere in Italy.  I was honestly only feigning concern so as not to appear naive in my ambivalence towards being completely broke.  I had every intention of over-drawing on my bank account while on this trip and I would consider the whole ordeal a failure if I had a penny left to my name.  Hence the liberal purchase of alcohol.  The cheapest option on the boat was perching on the deck and looking out to sea as the boat dipped and rocked rhythmically along the coast.  As we set up shop along the rail, a young American a few years older than myself, sat down beside us and immediately struck up a conversation.  Obviously an experienced traveler, he had no qualms embedding himself in small strange groups.  I found that many travel addicts are introverts and are extremely comfortable if not happiest when alone,  Dougie–as he later introduced himself–was the rare exception.  He was extremely extroverted and thrived on the company of others.  A tough existence; abroad amongst loners and chronically craving companionship.  Anyways, he chose us, and we, at this point in the trip, were always happy to add some third party English into any conversation.  We opened up the vodka and began deep discussions, staring off into the Atlantic.

Dougie was pleasant so long as you didn’t allow the conversation to drift too far into  conspiracy friendly topics like politics, social classes, capitalism, etc.  He was bright and well-read but clearly a bit off his rocker.  His hate and distrust for The System was, at least, very consistent.  He explained how he saw no difference between George W. and Obama.  His most passionate tirade came on the subject of a secret global plutocracy. It did not matter who was president (anywhere), he asserted, because a panel of Zillionaires were controlling the World.    He referenced several Youtube videos and prolific authors on the subject but, at this point, I was only sporadically listening.  It’s not that I consider all conspiracies to be entirely comprised of shit and poop and pee, only the theories that seem to be plucked straight from the Da Vinci Code.  Conspiracies that require superhuman planning and intelligence–not to mention subhuman ethics and social behaviour.  It is typical that even those with tremendous power still have to yield to some degree to public opinion. There are exceptions and holes in my logic but I assure you that is only because I am too lazy to describe my opinions in full. I have no doubt that there are probably numerous behind-doors-deals going on amongst very powerful people, but they will be exposed at some point and the impact of those deals cannot be certainties, as seems to be implied by enthusiastic conspiracy theorists where if a plan is executed, its desired effects are practically guaranteed.

Long story short, Dougie was a character.  Based out of Colorado he has been all over the World and done just about every extreme activity one could hope to achieve.  He had skydived numerous times in numerous locals, he has bungee jumped in a similar manner, rock-climbed in Argentina, kayaked in Croatia, snorkeled in Scandinavia, you name a country deemed exotic by Westerners and Dougie has done something perilous there.  Back in Colorado he was a welder of some sort, with an amazing boss who didn’t mind multi-month, spontaneous vacations and apparently paid well enough to fund these excursions.  I have my doubts as to Dougie’s true profession, but he didn’t strike me as the drug-dealer type nor the ultra-privileged but painfully self-aware globe-trotter, so I have no better theory than the background he provided.

By the time we had heard his Third desperate plea to reconsider our mostly favourable opinions of Obama, the three of us were wet-noodle drunk.  Words flowed easily from our speak-holes, too easily. Inflection rising and falling softly as if following a sine wave.  It was now dark and drizzling on the deck of the Oscar Wilde and the vodka was gone.  Hodge’s bottle of wine was opened and we sheltered ourselves with drunkenness for another half hour.  Dougie mentioned the movie theatre located on the ship and also dropped the fact that The Hangover was playing in, “oOoOhhhh,boot teh-minit.”  So, we stashed our booze, took a huge dump on financial responsibility by dropping 12 Euro each on a ticket and got to the theater in exactly eight minutes (Ehh-minit).

The movie was entertaining, even though I remember very little of that original screening.  I chuckled merrily on several occasions for sure, though, I know that.  I also know that halfway through the movie Dougie was having trouble keeping his eyes open.  He looked pale and sickly.  He had reached the end of the road for the night.  He was the first in the trio to become a victim of Oscar Wilde’s mischievous ship.  It was not the booze making us sick and stupid, twas Mr. Wilde himself, haunting the ferry of his namesake, making young men vomit words and old food deep into the early morning.  Dougie got up and stumbled out of the theater, muttering some kind of farewell before disappearing forever from both Hodge and my realities.

By the time the movie was over, the ship had gone to bed.  Only two bars and the upper deck remained open.  We had a half a bottle of wine and a bottle of Bailey’s between us.  Feeling drunk and social, we decided to tip-toe (as was the only secure way to move at that point in our sobriety) to the bar with a stage featuring young people from all around the globe dancing and singing.  In my heart of hearts I dreamed of being captivated by some Russian Ferry Performer for whom I would give a standing ovation after her ribbon-dancing routine.  She would see me in the scantily populated audience and we would make eye contact.  Later in the night she would seek me out and sit next to me, striking up an adorably awkward conversation in broken English until Hodge was either asleep or had been driven off by sideways glances.  This was not to be.

Upon entering the venue, we noticed only an elderly man doing some kind of karaoke while a few young, attractive performers cheered from the audience and one or two passengers sat by a bar, finishing the last of their spirits.  We took up a seat behind the young performers and watched the old man get down.  He was spry and energetic for any age at this hour.  He could very well have been a professional performer, paid by the ferry company, or he could have been an eccentric old-timer with a love for song and dance.  We may never know.  But, based on the reactions and smiles of the more youthful artists making up the entire audience, I would guess he had some kind of patriarchal role on the ship amongst the performers.

The old man gyrated and belted out notes without shame.  It was inspiring.  I was touched and I was drunk and I was trying to make eye contact with one of the prettier performers sitting in front of me.  I stared at the back of her head, seductively oblivious to the creepiness of such an act, hoping she would turn around and meet my gaze with lust and reckless abandon.  Hodge nudged me and told me to stop staring at people…I acquiesced begrudgingly.  She was very pretty, too pretty for me, far too pretty for an intoxicated me.  With a flash of divine self-deprecation the bejeweled blonde dancer with long legs and disproportionately large chest had been wiped from my heart’s romantic queue.   When the geriatric wonder had taken his final bow we moved on, completely satisfied, to the only remaining open bar.  The setting for the ugliest scene of my European excursion.

Hodge wandered off to find a bathroom in which, I assumed, to urinate.  I found a small table by the bar and ordered a beer.  There were only two other patrons and a piano player still stirring.  Across the bar sat a man straight out of central casting for Boondock Saints.  He had tattoos covering every exposed surface of skin besides his face, with intricate and colorful designs all the way around his neck.  The man had on a long black jacket, unbottoned, revealing a black V-neck tee shirt with a gold chain; also a black wool cap, dark blue jeans and black shoes.  The most eye-catching aspect of the man was the gorgeous woman sitting beside him, chirping contentedly as he stared blankly down at his beer.   Sitting at the table directly beside me was an older man reading a paperback. He had a thick white mane streaked with silver, a respectable light-yellow collared shirt and a pair of glasses attached by a velvet strap.  He was very innocuous and emitted a strong “wise grand-dad” vibe.  At one point he took his eyes off the book he was reading and asked me if I had ever been to Ireland before.  he had a strong Irish brogue

“Yes, ” I explained, “I actually started out here a few weeks ago.  In Malahide.  Made it all the way down to Croatia before I ran out of money.”

“Oh really?” He seemed more interested now. “And what did you think of Dublin?  Did you make it out to Galway?”

“Dublin was nice,” I said as it occurred to me that I had precious little in terms of meaningful anecdotes about Dublin. “Some of the nicest people I met on the whole trip.  They didn’t seem too busy to help a dumb American find his way,” I joked, hoping my usual dose of self-deprecating humor would be appreciated as it so often is.

He did chuckle, “yes we can be very accommodating to ignorance.”

“Yes…ha,”  I cocked my head.

Surely, that hadn’t been a brutal backhanded insult from this pastel gentleman.  My brain was sloshing around in vodka and Baileys, which actually helped the situation as I couldn’t process the statement fast enough to take any offense.  By the time the last decision making brain-cell in my skull had evaluated the old man’s words, we had moved on in our discussion, and the little guy’s input was no longer needed.  The braincell died shortly thereafter.

“Well you made it to Galway, I hope,” he asked with a palpable dose of impatience, although still not outright nasty in anyway.

I was nervous as I prepared to answer the stranger.  It was like High School when I was presenting a project I had slapped together the night before to a teacher I respected.  I was preparing myself to deal with his disappointment and scorn.

“I didn’t.  I flew from Dublin to Paris.  I…”

He interrupted.  This was too much. “Should’a fucking guessed it.  Why wouldn’t you go to fucking Galway? It’s the most gorgeous city in Ireland.  Let me guess, you hadn’t head of it before?”  He leaned in close to me as he asked his snark-stuffed question.

The fear subsided and I was now angry at the old man, although still trying to keep a thread of decency alive to save the conversation.  I knew where he was going.  There had been a few times where “Americans are dumb” jokes or sentiments had been relayed to us.  Usually by accident or presented in a genuinely sheepish and polite manner showing curiosity had gotten the best of their manners.  Like a woman in a tourist shanty in Croatia who asked nervously but intently if I had heard of Yugoslavia before and appeared relieved when I could ramble off a couple fun facts. There were never any times where any of us were directly or maliciously called dumb or ignorant for having been born where we were born, but I could tell this man might be the first.

“Nope, I hadn’t heard of it before arriving in Dublin.  I wanted to go, but we only had so many days on our Eurail pass,” I tried to bring the discussion back onto the rails of civility.  He would have none of it.

“It’s not your fault you’re stupid,” he said matter-of-factly, continuing the conversation as if I had responded defensively.

“Excuse me,” I asked in disbelief.  Sure, I had a hunch this guy was a dick, but damn.

“Your public education system is pitiful.  I’m saying, you’re ignorance is of no fault of your own,” he said, again, calm as cucumber.

“What the fuck?  Where is this coming from?”  The language and indignation probably didn’t help my argument but I agreed with him about public education so I couldn’t argue that point and my inebriated brain was failing me when I needed it most.

“That is a mighty generalization you’re making,”  I was finally able to sputter.  “Ask me something you think I should know.”

“What was going on in Ireland at the Turn of the Century?” He replied quickly, although not specifying which century was in question.  This may have been some kind of clever Irish trick, and if it was, I failed miserably.

My response was a stuttering mess encompassing no less than 300 years from Jonathan Swift to Michael Collins and a bunch of random shit in between.  The only consistent part of my response was the avoidance of the potato famine which I had convinced myself was what this old fuck expected me to say.  I never asked what century he was alluding to and just hit on a dozen or so Irish History bulletpoints, pulled directly–still warm–from me bum.

My moronic answer infuriated me and confused/bemused the American-hating Irishman.  Then he did what I was truly hoping he would not do.  He called over the neck-tat-assassin, to sit in and moderate our discussion on whether or not I was stupid.  In hindsight, I wish I had called shenanigans on the whole process on the grounds that it is unfair to judge the intelligence of an inebriated man.  However, in the heat of the moment, I did not protest.  Rather, sat slack-jawed looking back and forth between the two countryman.

“He’s American,” said the old man to my executioner, “he didn’t like me calling him stupid.”

“Look,” I began with a renewed hope that a third party, even biased, could help my cause, “I dont disagree about our schools, but you can’t just call us all dumb like that.”  Of course he could.  He just had.

The neck-tattoo’s eyebrow went up in an expression of understanding and for a split second I felt the ball was back in my court.  That Boondock Saint would back me up, calm the old man down and that I might end the night with a good story and a couple Irish friends after all.  Then Hodge came back from the pot.

“Who’s calling you dumb?!” Hodge sloppily and defensively said from over my shoulder.

I will reiterate, Hodge (God bless’em) was extremely intoxicated.  With drunken purpose he sauntered over to Neck-Tattoo and put his hand on the scary man’s shoulder.  Neck-Tattoo looked at me with eyes in turmoil; surprise morphing and pulsating into  rage.  Patience, still visible, fighting for control over the mind.  Even the old man looked nervous.  He lost his learned, holier-than-thou demeanour and sunk back into his paperback.  Neck-tattoos girlfriend–who had remained in her original seat–looked on in pure terror.  Hodge was swaying next to Neck-Tattoo, just kind of looking around.

“Hodge, no one called me dumb, that guy literally just sat down and has not said a word,” I spoke as soothingly as possible, as if one loud noise could ignite the room.

“Take your hand off my shoulder,” said the man finally.  Patience allowing young Hodge one last chance to avoid confrontation.

“Do it, Hodge” I ordered, “it was just a discussion, no one said anything.  I’m fine, let’s go.”

My buddy obliged, and with a confused look on his face shuffled back around the table and down the hall towards where the poor people slept (that is to say, where we were sleeping) without saying another word to anyone.

“Alright, I don’t know what happened here, but I’ll go ahead and get the fuck out of here,” I said to the men as courteously as I could muster.

“Good idea,” said the old man.  Neck-tattoo remained silent but appeared satisfied.

We both slept on the floor of the big common room we shared with thirty other passengers.  I awoke first, hungover as I had ever been.  I put on my fake I-pod and walked out onto the deck to get some fresh air and maybe boot over the railing and feed some fish.  I wrote down what I could remember from the night and transcribed the scribbles from right before I lost consciousness, producing the epic story of relative uneventfulness you just experienced.  I had spent far too much money, made a couple enemies and felt physically terrible.  I tipped my hat to the ghost of Oscar Wilde.

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