The Whirlwind

Blogging through space at 160 miles per second.

Movement

July 3, 2014 Chad No comment

Suddenly, it was time to leave.

After five months of living in Dublin, my visa was up. Ahead of me was a two month journey to Seattle to renew my visa. Behind me were smiles and hard work and deep, full breaths of life.

I packed up the few things I had and put the essentials into the one suitcase I’d be carrying with me. The rest would be stowed in a closet at work. With that, phase one of my Dublin experience was over.

One last look at the rooftops of Dublin

One last look at the rooftops of Dublin

It was a strange goodbye. I didn’t have much time to think about it given the madness of the World Cup summer. That and I wasn’t really “leaving;” I’d be back in weeks. There was still something “book-closing” about it. Ireland saved me. This grey island showed me light when I felt engulfed in darkness. I’ll forever be grateful for that.

Travels were easy. I passed through the airport gift shops and suddenly realized I hadn’t even thought of a present for Mom and Dad. Again, it didn’t really feel like a goodbye. I wasn’t ready to leave. It was simply a see you later.

When going through customs, the officer asked me “Where is your home?” I stammered. Stammering with customs officials will never lead to good things. “Houston” fell over my lips. Houston. I hadn’t lived there in 15 years. It was on all of my documents though. Such a difficult answer for such a simple question.

With that, I was back in Texas.

I started to sweat. I don’t remember if I ever stopped. Moving was the task at hand. A subletter had taken over my lease while I was in Dublin. Now the lease had ended and it was time to do something with all my stuff. I didn’t really want much of it, but I also didn’t have time to pick out the things that were “valuable.” Most was simply put in boxes and transferred to my parents place. I’ll do the picking-over later.

While in Austin, I managed to see the people who were important to me. True, I didn’t get along well with the city. There are some very special people living there though.

I also made a visit to the Dog & Duck only to find out that it would soon be closing. For my money, it’s the best bar in the world. The jukebox, the waitstaff, the conversations. Conversations about everything. Good ones, y’know? That place was my peak when things were good and my sanctuary when things weren’t.

The truck was packed and it was time to go. As I drove out of town, I didn’t really feel anything. I wasn’t “sentimental” or “sad” or “angry” or “happy.” Everything simply was. As I passed by the Capitol, lyrics from Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” started running through my head.

I’m walkin’ down that long, lonesome road,
Where I’m bound, I can’t tell
But goodbye’s too good a word,
So I’ll just say fare thee well
I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don’t mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right

World Cup Homecoming in Berlin

June 25, 2014 Chad No comment

It was a homecoming of sorts. Round two of the World Cup journeys brought me back to Berlin, where the boys would be gathering once again. Hilmar, Matti, Matthias, and Muemmel. Jeff and Will would be there too. As would all the rest.

Hard to believe it had been eight years since I left. Eight years. So long ago, so much has happened in between, but it seems like just yesterday.

As we wandered the streets, I’d catch myself thinking, “Wow! This used to be home. This was once mine.” I’d worked so hard for it.

It felt good coming home.

The weekend

The weekend started as every weekend should: with a trip to Biertempel (2). The name says it all. A cornerstone to the Tempelhof experience.

The tone

We set the tone early. After a run through the Tempelhof airport, Matti and I found breakfast served with a freshly opened Becks. It was going to be a good day.

Hilmar had to run a few errands, which meant he had to abstain from the morning/mid-afternoon beverages. He didn't want to let that hamper our day though.During one of the stops, he ordered three beers from a local pub and had them brought out to the car parked outside the bar. The waitress told us to leave them on the bench when we were finished.

Hilmar had to run a few errands, which meant he had to abstain from the morning/mid-afternoon beverages. He didn’t want to let that hamper our day though.

During one of the stops, he ordered three beers from a local pub and had them brought out to the car parked outside the bar. The waitress told us to leave them on the bench when we were finished.

On to the match...

Game time! That Jack Daniel’s bottle right there — that was a gift for Jan that he snuck into the bar. Around halftime of the match, he ordered a Coke at the bar. “You only have to fill it half-way,” he said as the bartender poured his drink. “Why’s that? You didn’t sneak anything in with you, did you?” “Oh noooooo….” Jan replied. That about sums up the evening.

The bar

The bar was in the Gesundbrunnen S-Bahnhof. Quintessential Berlin. Outdoors. Big screen. Sofas. The game ended in a 2:2 tie. We still won.

"Why the hell did I think it was a good idea to tell the penis joke?"

“Why the hell did I think it was a good idea to tell the penis joke?”

We woke up the next morning with a football match of our own.

We woke up the next morning with a football match of our own. Waaayy back in 2006, we put together a football group with some kids we’d met in the neighborhood. They still all play together in the Tempelhof Airport. Really cool to see that continue. And what a cool location!

Born in the USA (sorta)! It was the Yanks turn to play in the 2:2 draw. So close... oh so close!

Born in the USA (sorta)! It was the Yanks turn to play in the 2:2 draw. So close… oh so close!

And look who I found! Will and Joanna, former colleagues from CDS. The "C-D-S" hand sign is for you Rob!

And look who I found! Will and Joanna, former colleagues from CDS. The “C-D-S” hand sign is for you Rob!

"It ain't over till it's over." One last doener the next day with Hilmar and Jeff.

“It ain’t over till it’s over.” One last doener the next day with Hilmar and Jeff.

It's true!

Something about this city. Berlin, you captivated me the first time I visited you when I was 18 years old. I studied you, your culture, your language. I obsessed over you. Thank you for another beautiful weekend with beautiful friends. Thank you.

Kicking off World Cup in London

June 18, 2014 Chad No comment

— I am absolutely covered in beer.

England had just scored in their first World Cup match against Italy. Plastic beer cups were flung across the London bar. I laughed, looked over at DeVon, and gave one more cheer for the Three Lions. It would be my last cheer for the English. They lost 2:1. Good ol’ England!

Three Lions on the shirt. C'mon England! (Don't show this to my German friends.)

Three Lions on the shirt. C’mon England! (Don’t show this to my German friends.)

The London trip kicked off my own personal World Cup. London this weekend for the England v Italy match. Berlin next weekend for the Germany v Ghana match. Then onward to the States.

There wasn’t much sightseeing planned, and that, in itself, was part of the plan. DeVon, who recently moved to London, and his (Irish) girlfriend Ciara would play hosts to the weekend of football and beer. Allegiances were thrown out the window. We’d pick a bar and root like heck for that team, which is one way I found myself covered in beer during an England match in London.

Things started with Netherlands – Spain on Friday. The Dutch bar was filled well beyond capacity, so we found a cold pint at the overflow pub across the street. Shoulder to shoulder with the Oranje, the place went absolutely mental as Holland obliterated Spain. We joined the Dutch crowds in the streets with post-match shouts of victory. You would have thought we owned a pair of wooden shoes ourselves.

Hup Holland Hup! How many countries are you allowed to be a fan of?! (Again, don't show my German friends.)

Hup Holland Hup! How many countries are you allowed to be a fan of?! (Again, don’t show my German friends.)

The next day, true to our plan of not having a plan, we wandered the streets of DeVo’s home neighborhood of East London; birthday parties and grill parties and cans on the street, always within shouting distance of a TV showing World Cup matches. We stumbled upon an African market where I was able to buy an England shirt that would soon be covered in beer. Five pounds! G’won England!

It all led up to that England v Italy match. The match itself, it had its moments, namely that equalizer that had me covered in English beer. Somewhat predictably though, England flamed out. Not to worry, we were chasing an atmosphere, not a victory. With their cheers and sarcastic jeers (“You could tell what he wanted to do, he just wasn’t good enough to actually do it.”), it was all so very English.

Can't stop won't stop. World Cup!!!

Can’t stop won’t stop. World Cup!!!

The next day, we grabbed the remaining cans in the fridge and walked along the Thames with a good broad smile about us. Given that it was my first time in London, I would be remiss not seeing more than a few soccer pubs (or would I?). London, with its massivity and multi-ethnicities reminded me of New York. DeVon’s neighborhood of East London reminded me of a richer Brooklyn (if you can believe that).

It was time to go. Before missing the train that had absolutely nothing to do with the cans we had enjoyed throughout the day, we agreed that we’d share a really tourist weekend next time. For the moment though, I had to deal with a much more hectic and expensive departure than anticipated.

World Cup!!! Just can’t beat it!!!

World Cup. It’s Here. Finally.

June 11, 2014 Chad No comment

A lunch time stroll through City Centre coincidentally brought me to the front door of Paddy Power, Ireland’s favorite book maker. I peeked inside and immediately found the World Cup bet sheets.

World Cup Top Goal Scorers: L. Suarez… L. Messi… C. Ronaldo…

— Excuse me, I asked the guy behind the counter. Am I allowed to bet on a player who’s not listed on this sheet?

— Sure. What bet would you like to place?

— Jozy Altidore, I said with my best American accent. A wry smile crossed his face.

— Erm…. sure… as top goal scorer of the group…? Or…

— Of the tournament. His smile grew a bit more. Is there a minimum I asked?

— Nope

— Great! Then €2.50 on that and €7.50 for the US to make it out of the group stage.

At 250/1 odds, what could possibly go wrong?

250/1. Gotta like those odds.

With that, I just about completed my World Cup preparations. Brackets are filled out. Clothes are washed. Tickets are booked. Tickets…?! Yes, tickets!!! To London for England vs Italy! To Berlin for Germany vs Ghana! To Houston and Sheboygan for USA in the knock-out rounds (because there will be knock-out rounds)!

Football’s coming home! ’54, ’74, ’90, 2014! We bring the noise, we bring the ruckus…!

Back in the Saddle

June 3, 2014 Chad No comment

On the bedstand: Dubliners. Eveline. I know it’s hard, but you gotta take that chance Eveline!

Coming through the speakers: Caught Amanda Shires at Whelan’s this weekend. She was all sorts of messed up. Man does she have some pipes though.


Long weekend! Long ride! With the sun shining, I was on my bike headed south for the Wicklow Mountains. I’d like to say I knew what I was doing. I’m not here to lie though. Before I could think through just how high these mountains were or if my rusted bike would be up for the challenge, I was pushing past the Dublin city limits.

The flat road of Dublin gave way to a gentle incline as I left the city. Then a bit more of an incline. I pumped my legs. More. Higher. Steeper. The sun was really beating down. My legs continued to churn. I was wearing shorts for the first time in months. When did my legs get so pale?

Finally, a vista. No. Not yet. Further. Now, finally, a vista. A break. Water. Out of breath. Wow. All of Dublin unfurled below me. Beyond that, the sea. No rest for the weary though — further! Up!

One of the many vistas that opened up along the ride.

One of the many vistas that opened up along the ride.

The road started to flatten. I climbed to a ridge alongside of one of the ranges. No trees. Rocks. Grass. A few cars on a narrow road. It was beautifully isolated.

The road started to tilt downward. My bike began to pick up speed, despite it’s rattling protestations. I felt every bump of that old road as I hurried down. Vistas opened on every side. Valleys and rolling hills and sunbursts. A German War Cemetery nestled in beside a running stream. In the larger sense, that cemetery seemed incredibly out of place. From a personal perspective, it struck close to home.

A Celtic Cross overlooking the Deutscher Kriegsfriedhof.

A Celtic Cross overlooking the Deutscher Kriegsfriedhof.

Further I flew. Gravity really had a hold of me by this point. Down into the town of Enniskerry, where I could load up on a few carbs before rolling in to the Powerscourt Estate, home to one of the Top Ten Gardens in the World. As I strolled from the Italian Gardens to the Japanese Gardens, I thought back to some of the majestic gardens I’d have the privilege of seeing. Schoenbrunn. Sans Souci. Did I appreciate them then as I would now? No. Would I appreciate them now if I hadn’t have had those experiences then? Nope. The conundrum of experience.

Powerscourt Estate. Not too shabby fellas.

Powerscourt Estate. Not too shabby fellas.

After 25 miles on the bike, my legs were tired. The Powerscourt Waterfalls were next on the itinerary, but my legs simply didn’t have the juice to get me there. I rolled into the town of Bray on fumes. The Rugby Pro12 Championship was on. Leinster won it all. Good ol’ Leinster. Somewhere between then and now I became a rugby fan. I celebrated by snoozing on the train back in to Dublin. A lot of miles covered by these legs.

Sugarloaf Mountain approves of this view

Sugarloaf Mountain approves of this view