Don’t blame Belfast, ’16

Urban art, Dublin

Urban art, Dublin

It was in Belfast this time of year we learned Charlotte can sleepwalk. It’s not like a special power sleepwalking, more a defect. The house was really small with steep stairs and I had the coal stove going all night so we were glad she made it down the steps OK and onto the sofa where we found her the next day.

The coal stove made me sad for home, my dad’s family, all southeast Pennsylvania, shit towns like Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Hazelton.

The Paris attacks had just happened and we went to a Christmas market in the city, and there in a church they had a memorial for it.

It seemed about everything that could go bad in Belfast did. My birthday was on a Monday and we were trying to be good about home schooling the kids, and Lily and I were suffering our way through Brontë and I went out trying to find good coffee we could brew but didn’t turn up anything, just an old guy in a parking lot who tried to talk to me but I couldn’t understand a goddamned word.

And when I tried to buy alcohol they had to buzz you in. You stand outside waving at a camera then go inside and it feels like looking at porn somehow, all the bottles and cans. And I think there’s limits on how much you can take out they calculate somehow and I never knew if I’d have too much, but tried for the limit every time.

I got contacted by some publishing house while we were in Scotland and I couldn’t tell if it was legit. We scheduled a call for when I got to Belfast and I took it from the Titanic museum, in the lobby. They asked for me to tell them about the draft I said I was working on, on my blog. It was the first time I talked to someone like that, in a business sense, someone who seemed interested in selling what I had to write.

Though it sounded fishy I let the fantasy sit with me for a while. I figured the best thing to do was rework what I’d started, to use the opportunity as a way to pretend it could be real. I had another call with them by the time we got to Dublin.

Everything changed in Dublin. It’s like the sun came out as soon as we left Belfast and everyone stopped what they were doing and waved hello.

The old folks who rented the place to us left the fridge full of sweets and treats and milk, and a basket full of fruit. They assumed we were German and stocked up the coffee table with Dublin guides in German we couldn’t read. It smelled bad, the place, but they were so nice and the location was perfect, and they said we could stay an extra night for free: and at the end, they asked, could we write them a nice review?, and of course we did.

By the time we got to England I decided to take a month off from drinking to focus on my manuscript. I got up before dawn every day, which isn’t hard that time of year in the UK, and after I wrote I walked, and for an afternoon treat, I took a hot bath and drank a non-alcoholic beer, then made curries and listened to ambient music and read.

I started trying to control what I dreamed about and then the content of my dreams worked its way into my draft. I hand wrote all the entries to see what would happen. I got a Harry Potter Moleskin at the Harry Potter studios outside of London and believed perhaps it was charmed.

I found out I got recognized by the WordPress editors and I swear, it must have hit 60 degrees that day though I don’t know, it was all in Celsius. We were outside of Bath in a small village, we walked into town for the first time, and the kids tried climbing trees and we stopped for a hot cocoa by some patio lamps as the sun went down.

And a year later it’s funny, I think I can see it all better now.

Categories: humor, travel, writing

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

23 replies

  1. I remember following you last year through your trip, and I was going, Belfast? Why Belfast? Doesn’t sound like vacation wonderland to me.

    But it’s really all about how a place affects you, and you’ve come away with some great images and ideas. Glad you took copious notes in all your travels!


  2. I’d blame Belfast, if I were you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. i liked belfast for the interesting and eccentric people and places. and the titanic stories and messages


  4. I could feel you working your way to that conclusion. The broader view.


  5. Was going to ask if the publisher was legit but I can see from the comments they weren’t – gits. An interesting place, Belfast, weighed down with history and the saddest of legacies. Whereas Dublin is the party loving cousin to Belfast’s battered wife.
    My son used to sleepwalk for a bit but hasn’t in ages – and don’t they look odd doing it, that glassy expression. A great read as always Bill


    • “Quasi-legit,” pay to play…you know. But a good exercise, still. I think I wrote a good 10K words in January, all by hand, and a fair amount I can do something with, if I could just get off my arse here (and my blog) and focus on it. Nice comparison between Belfast and Dublin: it’s funny, it’s like the weather really did change on the very day we headed south. Still, fond memories…all part of life’s rich tapestry right? Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well at least something good came out of the experience – 10k’s a good figure, especially by hand. Though I know what you mean about removing yourself from the blog – having to do a certain amount of that just now so I can try to get a first draft done. Painful, but once the words start coming, just grand too 🙂


      • Grand: no better word for it. Although in addition to grand, I’ll say a bit unearthly too (the feeling you can fly, which comes so rarely in sleep, but exuberant when it does).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Slipping into another all enveloping world too – nothing like it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. That Titanic painting is wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So what happened to the publishing house? Did I miss that or is that a thread? If you take time off from drinking but drink a non-alcoholic beer, is that *really* taking time off?


    • Hey Mark, thanks for asking about that. Sorry for the late response here. You were asking about the publishing house: they wanted to sell me services. It was hard to decipher and a decent experience overall, but I wasn’t impressed with their catalog, didn’t seem a fit for me. Want to go with something weirder and cooler, if I go that route. Still, encouraged me to buckle down there for a solid month of writing every day, and I’m parsing through that, though slow-going and unfocused. I don’t have the discipline you appear to, with your recent project. And you’re right about the NA beer, thanks for that…hadn’t really thought of it like that…wink, wink. Placebos. Bye for now, happy holidays and all that goodness. Bill


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