Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thing 252 Eyebrow Wax and Pluck

Considering how ridiculously anal some people have been about Project Things, and considering this is the internet, where people love correcting other people, I'm kind of surprised that no one has noticed that Thing 252 was missing all the time. It was never posted. Initially I stalled on posting it because Hang Man had gone to Mexico, and he was the one who had taken the photos, on his phone, and I didn't feel like blogging without them. Then just decided to skip it, like a little experiment to see would anyone notice. Nope. Then I nearly forgot about it, till I got all sentimental the other day and started looking back. Good thing I caught it. I just know you'd have been up all night dying to hear about my eyebrow plucking experience. No? Didn't think so. Okay then. Moving on. Ya, I don't know if you've noticed this or not, I'm hoping not, but every so often I have a trace of a uni brow. This is a difficult admission for me, but since disclosure is important, and I think we've become friends now, there's a shade of a few hairs right smack in between my eye brows. I do not own the necessary grooming products to remove this (save for my razor and that's not a smart way forward now is it?), so I decided, inspired by a dear uni-browless friend (who definitely does not own his own eye-brow waxing gear. Wink wink, nudge nudge...) to head to an eye-brow bar and clean up my eyebrow shagginess. Yes, I did say eyebrow bar. These things exist, and several can be found in Limerick. The number of men who turn up there is small enough that the girls there could remember the guy's name (yep, there was only one other besides me). Oddly enough though, they know how to tackle a dude's eyebrows to make them look better. In my case they thinned them out, waxed the middle, plucked underneath and above. I didn't cry, and there's no evidence in existence which suggests that I did. My eyes didn't even water and no court anywhere could ever convict me of the same. Ahem. Or something to that effect. Apparently women get this done all the time. The lengths you ladies go to in order to loook good is frightening. I applaud your non stop determination to look well. I go days without shaving and you're all only lucky that I bother showering every day. I jest, but I really do tip the hat, men will never understand the lengths you go to. I'd a good laugh with the girls who did the waxing/plucking too. They even had what looked like a torturre rack of equiptment. It'd put the frightners on you... honestly. Anyway... that's Thing 252. It's now officially one minute past midnight, making this officially my birthday. Project ends today. Then party starts tonight. Old Quarter in O'Connell's. You're more than welcome. Last ever day of The Project...

Thing 365 Mime Artist

Here's the reasons that this was a good Thing: It's visible, it's embarrassing, it's something you hear/see in pop culture but would never do, it gets me outside my comfort zone, and some of them told me that I'd never have the guts to do it.

Here's why it's not a good Thing: I have about five minutes worth of mime-artistry. Secondly, it's stupid. Thirdly, The Canuck hates it so much that it's unlikely that he'll speak to me for some time to come.

There's the invisible shrinking box thing, where you pretend to be trapped in an invisible box that gets smaller and smaller. There's the rope thing, where you pretend to tug on a rope that's not there, there's the ladder bit, where you pretend to climb a ladder, then there's the window/door thing, where you open and close a window or a door. Max seven minutes of usable material. After that it's just repeating the same crap over and over.

At a stretch I was there for twenty five minutes, after that, I was bored. If there was anyone taking any interest in that at all, I might have stayed longer, but instead I got a few smiles as people walked passed. Nothing more. Why? Because people hate mimes (unless they're REALLY good, which I'm not). The bit that I liked about the whole Thing was the ridiculous looking facepaint and the obligatory stripey black and white top. The down side to this was that I was in O'Connell's/Old Quarter having coffee when I decided to gear up, meaning that when I popped out of the bathroom all ready to go I looked like a more giant tool than when I was on the street.

If you're a street entertainer, then you've no business being dressed up in a pub or cafe. Mind you, I ought to be used to people looking at me funny. It's not the first time I've very publicly made a tool of myself. The weirdest bit is that I spent all day dreading this one. I don't know why. I wanted to do anything else except be a mime. I had to work up the courage for it. Which is weird, because it's not the worst thing I've done. Not by a long way. I stalled all day. Extra cup of coffee here, another cigarette. Just five more minutes.

By the time I got up to start the feckin thing, it was peanuts, and five minutes later I'd exhausted all my Mime Moves, and then I was bored. There's only so many times you can simulate climbing in and out of a window before you'll bore yourself to tears, much less the audience, if I had one, which I didn't.

So after that I just started walking about smoking an imaginary cigarette and miming to people passing by that I'd like an imaginary lighter. No one bit. I quit. Stupid miming. I liked the facepaint so much that I left it on for a little bit while I had a cup of coffee. Then I got some sense and went and cleaned myself up. Every so often I catch myself being a tool, the rest of the time I need you guys to remind me...

By the by, at the time of publishing it's sixty two minutes to birthday... Roll on party time!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Thing 364 The Hole in One

They said it couldn't be done. If I was feeling vindictive enough I'd publish the full list of names of people who said I couldn't do it. But that would be unsporting, ungentlemanly and down right nasty, so instead I'm going to simply say: Na-na-na-na-nah na. What you can't see is that I'm currently blowing a raspberry at the laptop screen and with my thumbs in my ears I'm flapping my hands.

I look stupid, but I feel good.

I played my first game of pitch and putt in Parteen so long ago that I can't even remember what age I was, but I know that it was before I was a teenager. So we're talking at least fifteen years. Never once a hole-in-one. Thorny Wire has two already. He does have all the sporting genes though. The lad could shoot holes-in-one while he solos a football and spins rugby passes and throws darts. He's got himself some talent. To be fair to myself, I can type and watch Boardwalk Empire at the same time. Take that...
So Toe-Knee set up my trip to Parteen. He's a top bloke, and I know he was thrilled for me when I finally pulled it off, but I'm going to spend some serious time slagging him over the texts I got yesterday. "Bring a packed lunch, you're going to need it" was my favourite. I'll also slag him over the laughing and guffawing he did on my first twenty or so "practice shots".

That's what they were. I swear. The first twenty shots were complete disasters, now we're talking utter fails. I think I was closer to hitting the seventeenth green with a few then I was the first green, and let's just say they're not exactly side-by-side. Practice shots, all of them. I was getting into the swing of it you see... (pun intentional)

Practice makes something of you though. Toe Knee gave me a line to the green to aim at. The next twenty shots took the line, but fell about a foot either side of it. Getting better, but the heckling didn't help. There was more than a bit of it from behind me as the Green Keeper joined in with McK and Toe Knee's brother. To be fair, it was pretty funny. They kept calling for Thorny Wire to get up and give me a lesson.

We collected the twenty I'd just teed off, with Toe Knee preparing for a long day ahead. We bounced a few balls by the green to test the reaction and the roll of the green. Toe Knee found the spot. I went back up to the tee. The lads were sitting down to relax and brace themselves for a long day. The next sixteen were within a foot of the bounce spot. The seventeenth though...

It hit its mark, popped up over the lip, rolled on to the green and trickled... so slowly... down the hill... toward the hole... and slipped into the hole. It was so slow that Toe Knee had time to run on to the green, lift out the pin and he still had to wait. The noise it made when it dropped in to the hole was one of the most satisfying I ever heard.

Cue celebrations. Not just me, the lads all jumped in too. It had been almost exactly half an hour. Not all day. Not till seven in the evening. Not even past midday. Hooray! Get in there.

Ten minutes later the excitement had worn off. Project Thing done by twenty to eleven in the morning, now what the hell do I do? I spent the day sitting on the ass. It was nice... a taste of days to come after Thursday I think.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thing 363 Soup Run

Alright, let's not get all wrapped up in serious here, and I'm not about to start making sweeping dramatic statements and indulging in stupidity (that is to say any worse stupidity than that which you're normally used to), but things have changed since I spent a night sleeping rough. It was only one night, but like I said before, it upset me, and like Red out of Shawshank Redemption said: "You get busy living or you get busy dying". Dammit - is there nothing Morgan Freeman can't teach us?

So I decided to get busy. McGarry House, and it's sister house the Brother Russell House are shelters for the homeless run by an organistation called Novas. They're what's commonly known as "low-threshold" hostels, which means that they tend to take in a large number of residents that other hostels won't take. They also have no closing time, no curfew and they never expel anyone permanently. They don't believe in that last one, because they always believe that people are worth another chance.

I think they might actually be living saints. Considering my appalling excess, and the general assholery of me and assorted companions (I'm not going to name names, you know who you are... Pony Boy...). These people would just put us to shame, and then be really nice about it.

Another part of what what they do is the Soup Run. You can see them, three days a week outside what used to be Ferguson's Chemist on O'Connell Street in Limerick with plastic bins full of sandwiches, taytos, cup-a-soups, chocolate bars, tea and coffee. They just stand there and wait for anyone who needs a meal. They tried walking around to find homeless people but it wasn't working out, so they just put the word out and asked others to come to them. They'll stroll a couple of blocks here and there to spots that they know some people are sleeping or hanging out and they'll bring what they can carry.

I went on the soup run yesterday, got a look inside the two houses as well. This Thing is a kind of a two-sided coin. On the one hand, the awful poverty and desperate conditions that some people are reduced to living in is frightening. The indignity they suffer, and the desperation, sometimes loud, but mostly all to quiet is heartbreaking to see. On the other hand, the care, compassion and dedication of the workers and volunteers in the homes, and the affection with which they're held by their clients would melt your heart.

I had a theory a few weeks ago, that the hunger and the coldness on the streets was matched at least by the indignity of being ignored. That as much as food and cigarettes were wanted, and needed, acknowledgement and a kind word would go just as far in the eyes of the people who have to live this kind of life. I think I was right.

One of the clients came to us last night crying, he'd had enough. He didn't want to live on the street anymore. He wanted another chance. Annette and Sinead calmed him down, got him a hot cup of soup, and Sinead went about making calls to see could she find him a place for the night (both houses were full). He didn't know me, had never met me before, so he asked, awkwardly if I minded him staying with me for a chat. Of course I told him. He was delighted. So we chatted. Every so often he'd cry quietly, but mostly, we chatted in a nice way.

Others started turning up, shaking hands when they'd stroll over. Hot sausages wrapped in tinfoil would be stowed in pockets for later. Sandwiches eaten with a cup of tea and a chat. All the time as grateful for the company as the food and something hot to drink. After a little while my first new friend had relaxed enough and a few of us were talking about music... a sing song broke out. Trust me to find a sing song on the street.

For about and hour and a half we waited there. Some came, took the food and left, but not many, in fact, I think there was only one who did that. The rest came for something to eat and stayed to talk. They talked a little about how life is tough, but mostly about everything else from music to books, to food and everything in between. Like I say, a double sided coin - I couldn't decide if I wanted to be heart warmed or heart broken.

So that's the start of my career as a volunteer. Long may it last.

P.S. On a much lighter note, an infinitely lighter note, I'm gonna lash out a few buckets to collect for McGarry House on Thursday night. It's my party (and I'll cry if I want to) at O'Connell's at The Old Quarter on Ellen Street in Limerick from seven. Consider yourself invited.

Thing 362 Make A Tyre Swing

Yep, there's nothing quite like making your niece and nephew grin like that. Well, very little, the feeling of swinging on a swing is also pretty cool. I'll tell you what's not cool: falling out of trees and dislocated thumbs. While none of the former happened, there was a distinct threat of the same. The latter on the other half is currently the case. The Canuck has to wear a weird modern day splint looking thing since he dislocated his thumb. He's the only person that I know who can dislocate almost every part of himself. Man is like a transformer or a Power Ranger Zoid thing. Wow, now there's a blast from the past. How did that pop into my head?

Sunday was supposed to be "Jump Out Of A Moving Car Thing". Sadly, there was a Pony Boy family reunion and it went all the way back to The Sluggery and rocked on till six in the morning, so that ruled out my driver for the next day. Mind you, I slept like a baby all the way through, I was beat up after the banter with the guns and the rugby. So this left me short of options. Back to the Leather Book. It has almost every idea I've ever had, or been given for a Project Thing. On page two... Make a Tyre Swing. Beano.

And it's so easy right? C'mon people, it's me we're talking about here, of course I made a complete hash of it... It wasn't easy at all.
First off, I though the bit of rope I'd bought for a previous Thing would do just fine, and the spare-spare tyre would do too. So I'd everything I needed except a tree. Wrong. The rope was crappy and unwound easily. The Canuck pointed out that this is fine for me and him, since we're bored of broken bones (him WAY more than me), but for the kids, a more safety appropriate rope would be required. Secondly, how the funk do you get the tyre off the wheel well? We tried everything, and by everything I of course mean: A screwdriver, a spade, a pair of clippers, a knife, part of an old shelf and the metal part of The Canuck's splint. We're like MacGyver except stupid, and one of us is Canadian.

So off to B&Q to get some rope. Which we couldn't find, and then of course, being us, we got bored and decided to have some fun. I asked the shop assistant with the straightest face I could pull, where was the rope, the shovels and the bags of lime... The Canuck shusshhed me very obviously. Then we both fake smiled. The dude looked nervous.

At Ci-Ci-Doo and Puc It Out's house, we picked the second least dangerous tree. Quickly realised that we couldn't climb it (Dad wouldn't let The Canuck, man that was hilarious). So we had to try something else. Here's what we came up with...
Yeah. That's a can of beans with our rope tied around it. MacGyver never used a tin of beans to make his contraptions did he? No. Us:1 MacGyver:0. We're winning. Or at least we would be if it had worked. It did not. So we moved on to the third least dangerous tree. I was nominated to climb on the grounds that we didn't want Dad to come out and ground The Canuck for two weeks without pocket money. I'm still laughing at that. I don't know why. If he told me not to I wouldn't either. So I shimmied my fat ass up the tree to the best of my ability, pulling large chunks down on top of me as I went. Got the rope into the tree climbed down... choked for a while and then sent The Canuck up to do it right...

The man is part monkey, even with a dislocated thumb. I coordinated, which is a fancy way of saying I didn't do much, but told others how it should be done. My only contribution was to think of ways of levering up the rope when it fell. I put all those honours in the leaving cert, four years of college and eighteen months of training for my current job to work and came up with this:

Tie the rope to a stick. Throw the stick.

Genius. After much labouring and messing, we finally had it. A rope swing. Too low for me or The Canuck to make use of it - after all the eldest of my sister and brother-in-law's kids is only seven (almost). But it hung, and we got the thumbs up from Spike and Looper up there in the top photo.
Job well done. Except for that photo. That's just embarrassing.

Out Nana's back garden there was a swing which was built buy one of her brothers for my Da and his sisters. All of us grandkids got the use out of it, in fact, we regularly fought over it, and we were reminded that it was built by hand.

I hope mine lasts. There's not a lot of Things that are going to stand the test of time, and I'd like to be able to call over to the gaff in seven years time when Grace is the same age as Ellen is now and say; yep, that was me. I did it. I hung that tyre swing.

God knows the "baking skills" I picked up during The Project aren't going to be the stuff of legend...

Thing 361 Shooting

Do not adjust your monitor. That picture is sideways. You're okay. I promise. I just though it looked all arty and shit. I've already covered this bit, but for the sake of reiteration, I love movies. I particularly love action movies. Sunday is a day for couch and action movies or old movies with more tea than is healthy. The Frenchman takes this to extremes, choosing only the worst of the worst in action movies. No plot, just explosions and guns. It's hilarious.

As a result of our combined fascinations, I've been exposed, like most of my generation to lots of shoot-em-up scenes. Guns shouldn't frighten me, or have any effect on me at this point, but they did. Not in a weird scary way, just that when your mate hands you a twelve guage shotgun and you feel the weight of it, and watch people duck out of your way when you swing around with it in your hand, well, you get a strange kind of feeling. This thing can kill people. It's only purpose is as a weapon. It's a tad unsettling.

Thankfully, we were only out to shoot clay discs, not anything alive, and though at the best of times I'm a clumsy moron, that strange feeling of knowing that this thing in your hand is a lethal killer, it makes you cautious, and considerate, and more than a little careful.
You wouldn't have guessed from the picture. Cameraman in the background is fishing for shotgun shells while Big Bar and Dr Frasier grin like idiots. I promise, we were being careful. Singer wasn't allowed to hold a shotgun. That would only lead to misery... I'm kidding, he's just as competent at not killing us as anyone else.

While the shooting was the main Thing for the day, it was all in all, quite the entertaining boys day out. Start off with some clay shooting by the lake in Kilaloe. Apparently, I'm not half bad at this, I hit a few of the targets. Big Bar frightened all and sundry by being shockingly accurate. Sure he looks like a tall smiley friendly giant, but don't piss him off if he's within arms reach of a gun.

We watched the Munster match (first time I've seen them playing in the Amlin Challenge Cup -so there's a Thing. Incidentally, Top Cat was at the game and it looked like awesome fun for the travelling faithful), then we popped down to Reddan's in Kilaloe and had a pint or two while we backed a gang of slow horses at the Grand National, then back to Kilaloe for the Leinster match. Top day.
This photo is included for effect only. It makes me look like a murderous hick. I can feel the Limerick jokes coming from all my Dublin mates. Go on then... get them over with...

As I said, I wasn't prepared for the feeling of holding a shotgun, I most certainly wasn't ready for the kick that comes with it. My shoulder is bruised and so's my arm. I'm not going to whinge about it or anything, but if you've never been shooting before then brace yourself for that. Recoil from a twelve guage is powerful and it hit the chubby flesh around my chubby shoulders fairly remorselessly.

The fun part was the success. You've to call "pull" (no dirty jokes perverts) and the shooter is released to throw the clay high into the air, it tends to curl, you've to swing that heavy gun around and shoot early. Because of the way shotguns work, the shell scatters, so the earlier you shoot, the better the chance of hitting the target.

Here are some not so instructional videos:

First there's me: Here and here.

Then there's Dr Frasier: He's here.

Can't leave out Bear: Here.

And of course, Big Bar... Here.

Granted, those videos do not make for riveting viewing, and we were better than they let on. Honest. We just weren't filming the bits where we were kicking ass. Wow, that sounds like a lie no matter which way you slice it. I promise we're better than they let on. Also, I wish we'd a video of Cameraman shooting, because honestly, that'll make your blood cold. Someone's getting an invite on to my Zombie Apocolypse Survival Team.
My success rate was pretty good, I hit a three of them anyway, which out of twenty five shots, seems like a meagre return, but it was my first time. So, you know. The point wasn't winning though (spoken like a true person who didn't win, I really don't like the term loser), it was to know what it's like to shoot a gun. It's strange. Not bad, or good, just unusual. There's a power to it which is tempered with trepidation that things could go wrong if you're not careful. Sort of like having control of the remote in your living room, except instead of picking bad TV and getting slagged or given out to, you might kill someone if you're not careful.

Interesting thing to be able to say that I've done. Also, got me some new recruits for when zombie apocalypse arrives. When that does happen, you might want to stick close to Bear, Cameraman and Big Bar...

Thing 360 Swim in the Shannon

When I got back from my holiday in Australia, after twenty three hours or so of travelling, Blond Boss was all about the going home. I, on the other hand, had to get into town. I told everyone that it was because I was mad to see my mates that I hadn't seen in three weeks, but it was actually because I missed the River Shannon. How ultimate-sad-ass is that? I wanted to go have a look at the river. I told you that I love Limerick, I really wasn't kidding.

So, eh, after that highly embarrassing admission, it should be no surprise that I've always wanted to swim in the Shannon. Not just anywhere though, I didn't want to be diving into the river at Carrick on Shannon, or in Lough Derg, I wanted to go swimming in the city centre. Right in the bit of the Shannon that makes Limerick City look pretty.

The problem... floating menace...
Look at that face and tell me that you're not intimidated. I'm pretty sure he's planning to kill me.

It would be false to say that I've got a phobia of swans, I'm not that afraid of them, they just make me nervous. And when I see them gathering, in a little dangerous posse right at the edge of the steps where I'm trying to get into the water to swim, well, I start sweating a little.

When they refuse to leave that spot, and then start congregating in the new spot that I choose, I start considering swan-heavy conspiracy theories. How much do they know? How much do we really know about them? We know that they can brake peoples' arms, apparently. What else are they capable of?

Finally, they moved off, and having spent an age watching them, I considered chickening out. I didn't though. You can't walk across burning wood one day and then freak out about swans the next. Stupid swans.
The second thing that was concerning me was hepatitis. My Granda once spent six months in hospital after rat urine got into a small cut on his leg. Hepatitis can be a bitch. And while I think that the water is a little fast to be badly infested, well, cities are cities and rats are rats and the obvious is the obvious, so I was a little alarmed. That's only prudent really.

Here's what I hadn't considered, what with the swan-gang and the hepatitis on my mind, was that there's a nasty current running just out from the water's edge. You can swim relatively undisturbed for a bout ten feet, then it's all about the current, and it was dragging itself toward swans... fast.

You can see me looking nervous in this next photo... Holy crap. Those sinister looking swans are coming right at me.
So I had my swim, fulfilled a life long ambition, then got out to dry off only for Token Northy and Pony Boy to attempt to first de-towel me while I was in the nip, then try to drive off with the rest of my clothes. Gas men... and by gas men I mean gowl-bags.

Got to love the loyalty of The Frenchman. Stood his ground. He'd have helped me to walk home in the nip. Or at least lent me some pants.