About Me

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I like to write and I like to party, but mostly just the writing. Disclaimer: A lot of these stories are true ones. The memory of growing-up in and around Killybegs. When you hold a mirror up to small communities, sometimes there are those who don't like the reflection. Capote knew this only too well. If you find the refraction just a little too much and would like the angle of incidence changed in your favor, please email me at georgevial@hotmail.com and I will be happy to make a name change here or there.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Man with too Many Hobbies

It was the summer of 1995, the year I did my leaving Cert and got the hell out of Newbridge College with Five honours and four hundred and thirty points to show for all my Dad’s money.

For the summer I was working in the Sail-Inn, the crappiest pub in town and possibly the worst restaurant in town, not because of the food, it was actually good, after all I was the chef, but for the d├ęcor. It was falling all around Vernon and Peggy and their hairy arm pitted daughter Janet. Vernon built the place like a Chinaman, as my Dad would say, he stacked one addition on top of the next. It was great fun to work there, I ate the best of the food and drank all that I wanted, not that the bosses ever knew. I think they must have had a fair idea, but they kept quiet as I only got a hundred and twenty a week and worked about the same number of hours.

I’d been through a few girlfriends that summer and around the end of July I meet my childhood dream girl; Karen Callaghan. She was beautiful, dark hair, dark skin, from a good family, she was the captain of the Rathfarnam girl’s school hockey team, that made her body fit too. I fell in love with her when I was about ten or twelve, when I’d seen her walking up the big pier with her father. I was on the Golden Rose with my friend Jonathan and all that night we talked about her and other girls as we listened to Elvis and I slept on the floor beside his bed. We were best friends; drifted apart since then.

Well, life was good and for the first time in history, that I can remember at least, Ireland was having a hot summer. Everyday was warm enough to go out to the beach at Fintra, the most amazing beach in the world. I’d been to a few foreign countries and never have I seen one that compares to Fintra. It’s a mile of golden sand with a cove at one end and wrappes around the other, out of sight, what we called the sinking sand. Local legend had it that a plane crashed there during the war and sunk beneath it. Often my brother and I would have a look, but we never saw anything.

Saturday’s were the best days because I had a split shift everyday between two and five, however Saturdays meant that everyone else was off and I could actually get to see people. This Saturday I’d taken my bicycle to work rather than my mother’s car. I took the car a lot since Derek was in Spain and I didn’t have to compete with him for it. On my break I cycled up to the beach, Karen said she would already be up there.

The tide was out when I got there and I spied around the beach to see if I could see any of the people I knew. I didn’t, so I asked some familiar faces lying half-naked on towels. They said Karen was down with my Dad and others on his new boat.

That was the first I knew Dad had a new boat. He had bought a semi-rigid a while back and the damn boat came apart at the seams in the middle of the bay, he and Jenny had to paddle the thing back to the pier. Wish I had seen that sight.

I could see the boat way off in the distance and I jogged all the way down to the shore, then wadded in and when it was deep enough I swam out to the boat, Christ I was in good shape then. Guess that’s what two years in a boarding school does to you; exercise your mind and body, damn that sounds Buddhist, that’s a good one a Dominican Buddhist!

As I swam closer I could see the boat was a beauty, white with a blue strip down her side. Karen was on board, she was looking perfect as ever in a red swimsuit, I called it her Bay Watch suit. Damn she was beautiful.

My Dad was looking twenty years younger on the boat with the latest design in sunglasses. Life was good to him back then, he didn’t have many worries. He smiled a lot and wasn’t quite so cynical, at least that is how I remember it.

When I was a kid growing up, I always wanted to be rich, so this girl would like me, her name was Mariead McGing. I thought she was the most perfect thing in the world when I was six, seven and eight. I got to sit beside her in third class, before I moved schools and was I ever happy. I always believed being rich would make her love me. Her dad owned one of the big boats and to be rich was the only way to make her love me. I slowed danced with her at my Conformation disco in the Forester’s Hall. I wasn’t yet so rich, but a little older and I didn’t feel intimidated by her anymore and love her I did not. Now, at Fintra beach, on Dad’s new boat with the most beautiful girl in Killybegs, I was rich; rich beyond my wildest dreams.

Dad sped the boat out the bay and I looked at Karen and wished I could have paused life there and then. I didn’t know it then, but that was the zenith, soon it would begin to dip down, down till it hit the lowest of low points.

Part Two

After a year of college in Dublin, an eventful year in which I two timed Karen and broke up with her, much to my regret and made some great friends, one of which decided to head to France with me for the summer.

I was now dating this tall blond, the twin sister of my roommate’s girl, she was everything a man could want in a woman, but she was no Karen. I came home just before I was to go to France with Damien and I was up visiting her in Donegal, when my Grandfather died suddenly.
I was there when he had his stoke and he said his last words, last coherent words, to me. We were giving him a little sup of brandy to thin the blood and he slurred “a wee drink’s good for ya, as long as it’s medicine.” I loved him and his passing really got to me. I’d never known death before and the fragility of life got to me. I felt like Mersault in The Stranger and what cared I for life, if we could all go at a moments notice.

I went to France all the same and returned not long after. I was in bits. Couldn’t seem to get it all together, I cried a lot and didn’t really know why. We got the boat out a few times, but nothing like the summer before. It rained a lot and when it wasn’t raining my Dad and mother were fighting and that made me not want to be in the house at all.

I didn’t go back to college and worked all winter in Dad’s factory. The boat was stowed away in some place in Northern Ireland for the winter to get serviced.

She was taken out a few times the following summer, but then Dad was getting separated from Mam and the boat was being ignored. He bought a tarp that covered it all and now the tarp never come off. The algae that use to come off with one wash was becoming permanent and the blue strip was fading and the boat was dilapidating in our front drive.

I didn’t feel so rich anymore and had to get away from home because like the boat, our family life was deteriorating and there was no escape like the first summer, when the days were warm and you could take the boat out the bay and leave all behind.

I do remember one Saturday in the summer of 1996, when we did take it out, I was up the stern and sleeping off a late night. I let my feet dangle over the side and a dorsal fin came up along side to check us out; cured my hangover fairly quick. Since then I can’t remember when we last fished or skied or just took her out for a good old run. There were too much other things happening in life and the boat, the symbol of richness that made me feel content was forgotten about.

That fall I went to Galway to another college and by Spring I had fallen in love with an American girl and ended up spending the summer with her in the Midwest for the summer of 1998.

The years were rolling by, I hardly noticed them at all, it felt like yesterday I had left boarding school one of the most successful students. It’s amazing all the factors that can go into screwing up your life.

That summer was bliss. I learned to live a whole other life and it made me happy. I was 1200 hundred miles from the sea and I didn’t miss it at all. I rowed boats out on small lakes and caught fresh water fish and played games and sang songs and fell in love everyday with my girl. I loved her more than anything and for the first time in years I forgot about Karen and the good, rich life I once had. This one, this summer in the Heartland of America surpassed that one.

In August I came home and didn’t really talk to anyone much, I didn’t even notice that we had a boat anymore. Mum had moved out and Dad was grumpy all the time. I worked for him till December, without talking much to anyone, I became a hermit up in my room and I had taken to mountain biking because of a friend I lived with in Galway. I used that to escape to the mountains and back roads, where it was just me and my thoughts, until I could head back to America.

I arrived back in Kansas City the day after Boxing Day and a whole new chapter began in my life. Commenced college for the third time and this time I wanted to stay, something I didn’t feel with the other places. English was the game as I had slowly been giving into my desire to write, it was a lot to do with all those hours I spent at home not talking, had to express myself somehow.

Jill went back to finish school in Texas in the middle of January and I stayed in KC to keep up with college. I loved the air she breathed and I did all I could to fit into her world; It was so different from my old one. I loved her a lot at the time and desperately wanted to be accepted.
When summer came again and she returned we didn’t love each other anymore and I was in love with Shannon. Somehow we just were in love, we made love one night and that was that. I broke up with Jill and carried on without skipping a beat. It was strange, but I loved Shannon in a way that I could never love Jill, even though I loved the air she breathed.

Shannon came home with me for Christmas and it was a good time. Being winter, we didn’t take the boat out but I took a look at her and perhaps it was because I was in love again, but she looked better than she had in years. I was rich again.

Whatever it was we too fell out of love about two months after we came back from Ireland. But we let it linger on for another eight months till I got brave enough and ended it. It took me another year to really get over it. I loved her so much I broke it off and from a far I can see that I loved her too much to stay with her. I would want her to live in a glass bubble, with only me and my love, but she had too much living to do and didn’t like me anymore.

I got pissed off in America and came home in August of 2001. I didn’t want to go but I was not in love and hated my job and most of the people I worked with. The first week I was home I got Dad to take the boat out. She looked like shit again, she started easy enough and we took her out the bay for a run. She made it as far as Drumanoo Head before the belts went on her and we had no radio or cell phone to call for help. I was scared for a while because the rocks were coming closer and closer, but Dad was not and he took the engine cover off and McGivered the engine back to one piece taking the belt from the water pump and putting it on the fuel pump and steamed the boat all the way home at about five knots.

When we got back to the pier I took her out to the petrol station and washed her for about an hour and a half. Dad had taken up horse riding and car racing and the weather had been terrible every summer and this one was no exception and the boat was ignored and let go to waste. It was a shame since she still looked fine and the seagull shit and algae came off with some love and care. When I was finished washing her I took her up to the house, the new house Dad lived in with his girlfriend, he didn’t live at home anymore. I think my mother was there but I didn’t see her because she was off the planet. The summer after Granda died, Granny died too, that left her depressed and her separation from Dad shortly after really put the last nail in the coffin of her sanity.

The boat was reversed up against the fence of the horses’ enclosure and there she has been left. I was up the other day and she is still there all-alone. It looks stupid out of the water, like some kind of alien artefact or dinosaur up on a trailer with the tarp over her, a ghost of what she use to be.

When I look at her I am reminded of the day I cycled out to Fintra and sat with Karen Callaghan in the back seat, while Dad with his sunglasses, skimmed her across the warm Atlantic Ocean, it feels like a dream now and I often wonder if it was.

My old life is like the boat, its been washed and stored away for another time. There is too much else now to go back to it. It will slowly erode silently away under a tarp. New hobbies have taken its place, life keeps moving.

I graduate college in a few months, eight years after I left boarding school. What have I really achieved? More than just a degree, I’ve earned a lesson in life. I have to let the boat and all its memories go lie in their grave just like my mother, let them all sleep their peaceful sleep of the ages.

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