My somewhat quirky views as I gaze at the world around me!

Archive for November, 2011

Waiting for the Angel

NEW YORK, NEW YORK

CAESAR'S PALACE

They came.  Thousands of years ago, they came to the Pool of Bethesda – the lame, the halt, the deaf, the blind, the disabled, the paralyzed, the unwell, the sick, the dying.  It was said that from time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters.  The first one into the pool would receive a miracle and be healed.

And now, 2000 years later, they still come with their wheelchairs, walkers, canes and crutches, with their hearing aids and oxygen bottles, with their white canes, service dogs and black glasses.  No, not to the pool at Bethesda, but to Las Vegas.  In seeming isolation they sit by their own personal pools, waiting for the angel to stir the waters and line up 3 of a kind, for the bells and whistles to jangle and shriek, for the coins to clatter into the tray.

Who are these thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands roaming the streets and casinos of Las Vegas?   They are all ages, all sizes, nationalities, colors but there seems to be a universal search for something.  All are subjected to the same ear-blasting, pumping cacophony of music blared inside and out.  All are exposed to the same cigarette smoke and alcohol-induced gaiety.  All weave or stumble through the apparently endless ebb and flow of this river of fun-seekers and risk-takers.

Everything is for sale here from high-end deluxe goods and tacky souvenirs, from the practical  batteries and tissues, to the “signature cocktails” (glass included) and overpriced mediocre entertainment.  But most of all, people come to buy the illusions of excitement, fun, sex and riches.

I see multigenerational families – Asian, Indian, Arabic, Hispanic – and I wonder what the old grannies think  of all this hub-bub.  I see young couples, some seeming under the voting age, with dad carrying a toddler on his shoulders, mom with the newborn in a pack on her chest and each of them taking a turn wheeling the in-between one in the stroller.  Are they really having fun in the midst of the noise, the smoke, the frantic pace?  Are the children having fun, exhausted and over-stimulated at midnight?

I see the groups of young girls? young women? in their tanks or tube tops and miniskirts, tottering up and down the 5 mile long Strip in their 4 inch platform heels.  Are they working girls?  Did their mothers never tell them to cover up and  keep warm or they’d catch a cold?  Or are they normal young women chasing the dream of finding love, wealth and/or fame?

Woven among these groups are the young men in their low-riding pants, baseball caps  and falling apart shoes.  They seem to travel in packs, usually carrying  adult beverages and punching each other randomly.  They seem harmless but then can you ever really be certain with pack animals?

And then there are the “click-click” men.  These are usually short, stocky, swarthy, hoody-wearing guys, thrusting cards at you offering  “GIRLS!!!!!!  Direct to You in 20 Minutes!!!!!”  They target the men tourists.   Some take the cards; others cling to their wife’s arm more tightly and avert their eyes.

People come to Las Vegas for many reasons.  Some come to see the shows.  Some come to find that elusive something.  Some come because it’s on the way to somewhere else.  Most come to gamble.  But maybe everyone everywhere is  hoping the angel will stir the waters and give us a miracle.

Irish Paradise/Floridian Paradise

Owenroe or Moynalty River in Moynalty, County ...

Image via Wikipedia

Kingsfort Gate

Mr Billy Bull

Miss Puss

Miss Puss

MOYNALTY MAP

View from Kingsfort

KINGSFORT VIEW

Up the long and winding lane

I am very blessed to be able to live in Paradise …..in fact, I split my time between Paradise of either side of the Atlantic.  And I live very different lives in County Meath, Ireland and South Florida.  While there are many similarities, I want to share some of the differences.

In Ireland I live in a 3 bedroom bright, sun-filled house on top of a hill,  almost half a mile up a dirt lane in the middle of 400 acres of grazing land.  The stone wall that surrounds much of the property is guarded by a gate whose stone pillars proudly state KINGSFORT.  In Jupiter, Florida, I live in a 2 bedroom and loft  townhouse with windows that don’t seem to get much sunlight at any time of the day or year.  It’s in a gated community on a golf course and a 5 minute walk to the beach.  A white metal spiked fence surrounds much of the complex and a turquoise sign proclaims THE ESTUARY.  The electronic gate needs a code or remote to open it.

My neighbors in Kingsfort are  few.  At the bottom of the hill in each direction is a single home, owned by siblings.  I can’t see either of them from my windows.  It’s very quiet, restful and, well, bucolic.  Only an occasional farm vehicle rumbles by.  Most of the noise is made by the bull in the field calling his “girls”.  Sometimes a calico barn cat (her name is Miss Puss) will dance on the window sill and sing for her supper.

There are 154 units in The Estuary so I have neighbors.  And their cars.  The landscapers are kept constantly busy on the grounds, including the golf course, and they use lots of power tools to cut, trim and groom.  My neighbors on one side , up and down,  both have little white dogs.  One barks when a stranger (me) walks by the door and the other barks at almost everything.  Since I returned almost 2 weeks ago, the neighbor in back of me has had on-going renovations, conducted primarily in his open garage, requiring much drilling, hammering, sawing, etc.  Added to this cacophony, today was the day the driveways were power-washed.  More noise…………..not quiet, restful or bucolic!

Everyone knows that driving is different in much of the world.  In Ireland I drive on the left, the steering wheel is on the right , you look RIGHT then LEFT.  I drive a manual transmission in both countries.  In Ireland I shift with my left hand, in the US with my right.  Thankfully, the pedals are always in the same place!

In the US on-street parking is plentiful and usually free.  In Ireland, in most towns, the streets are very narrow, parking is scarce and people park on either side of the street regardless of which direction the car is facing.  Also, you must find a parking ticket machine, feed it Euro coins and purchase a ticket to be displayed on the dash.  Failure to do so entails either a fine of at least 80 Euros (just over $110) or a clamping of your vehicle, which can take hours to get removed as well as costing a minimum of 160 Euros.  Unfortunately, I’ve experienced each situation…but only once.

In Florida, I go to a very elegant, up-scale, state-of-the-art salon where my car is valet parked.  There are more than 30 stations as well as a separate barbershop, manicure room, pedicure area with massaging chairs, a row of shampoo sinks, a make-up and skin care facility, 5 changing rooms, etc, etc, etc.  It’s where the “beautiful people” go.   As you’re being groomed, you can sip your choice of wine, coffee, tea or water.  If you’re hungry they will send someone to the deli to bring back your lunch.  The floor to ceiling windows gaze out at acres of million dollar yachts and sailing vessels.

In Moynalty, I go to Mandy’s house, even farther out in the williwags than mine.  I park in her large forecourt next to her husband’s pick-up and her people-carrier.  I then let myself into her efficient 2 chair, 1 sink salon addition at the back of the house.  Rarely is there another customer  at the same time but her 15 year old son and 2 1/2 year old daughter are always in and out.  No credit cards, only cash (about a third of the cost in Florida).  And I’m always offered a beverage, sadly never wine!  The view out the large windows is of her rose garden and a rising hillside covered with sheep.

There are many other differences and similarities, of course.  I’ll tell you about those later.

Irish Potatoes

The Irish Love PotatoesThe potato is almost synonymous with Ireland…think Ireland, think potato.  And the Irish LOVE their potatoes!   But potatoes are not native to Ireland, nor indeed to Europe.  There is evidence that potatoes were being eaten in Peru at least 2500 years ago.  The first potatoes were brought to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s and shortly after imported by the British to Ireland.  They soon became a staple of the undernourished native Irish population as they were relatively easy to grow, required only a small amount of space (very important in an Ireland in which all property was owned by British or Irish Protestant landlords until 1793) and filling to the belly.  Unfortunately, the potato crop was hit with a very contagious blight in the years 1845-47, resulting in the infamous Irish Potato Famine.  Over 750,00 people died as a result of starvation and millions emigrated.  (Over 1.5 million people emigrated to the United States alone in the years 1840-60.)  The absolute shame of this Famine is that there were many other crops being grown by the peasants on landlords’ estates, all of it exported to Britain and Europe.

Potatoes are grown in rows, called drills, and are lovely green fields covered in white or purple flowers.  In Ireland, there are 2 crops of potatoes planted.  The Spring crop is planted, depending upon the amount of frost in the ground, in February or March and harvested  in late July or August.  The Winter crop is then sown in August or September for a Christmas harvest.  Of the 4000 varieties of potatoes grown world-wide, about 80 are grown in Ireland and Britain.  Not here do you find Russets, Idahoes, Yukon Golds, Peruvian Blues, early Red or New potatoes.  No, here in Ireland the most popular are Maris Pipers, Charlottes, Rockets, Roosters, Kerr’s Pinks, Golden Wonders, Home Guards, Caras and British Queens.  No matter the variety, potatoes are often referred to by generic nicknames like praties, spuds, taters, murphies and taytos.  Whatever the name, the very finest are described as “balls of flour”.

I’ve been cooking potatoes since I was a child.  In fact, one of my first culinary achievements was mashing boiled potatoes to a creamy smoothness.  Of course, since then I’ve come through fried potatoes, double-stuffed baked potatoes, scalloped potatoes with and without cheese and/or onions, potatoes dauphinois, creamed potatoes, home fries, au gratin, en gallette, latkes, colcannon, champ and on and on and on.

And never, with any problems, whether in the US, Spain or Ireland.  Until a recent Wednesday.  We had gone to buy fresh eggs from a local farmer and he convinced Mister to buy a bag of his freshly dug spuds.  I duly prepared dinner and cooked the potatoes in my usual manner.  Whipping them with the electric mixer, as usual, all was well until I added a couple of knobs of butter.  ELMER’S GLUE!  WALLPAPER PASTE!   DISGUSTING!!!!!

I couldn’t believe it, I’d never had this happen before.  What kind of potatoes WERE these?  “British Queens” was the answer.  Of course, that explains it.

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