Ditchin’ the Books

Remember me. I say, “We need more mouse.” This refers to the moose in the Irish pub nearby called McGuire’s. Every newbie has to kiss it. Yes, you heard me right. It is my favorite spot to relax and play and meet friends and colleagues from school. It happens to be located in the great besieged-by-hurricanes state of Florida near the Gulf Coast. You are now all familiar with our situation, but we Floridians bounce back fast. Here I am with a new blog. Life goes on and I am still in college. I still love Celtic music which is popular, as you can imagine, at the pub. I am studying diligently so I can graduate on time. It can be a chore and an effort, but I love it nonetheless. It is an important period in your life and you want to take advantage of what you are learning and the great people you meet.

Rarely, I ditch the books to have some fun and take a break. Occasionally in the nice weather, or even when it cools off, I love to hang out in the hot tub in the backyard of a good friend. She once told me she bought it on a whim after browsing a web site called https://www.hottesttubs.com/.When there are a few of us drinking wine or beer, and listing to our favorite music, this form of recreation is beyond compare. Think of nice heated water swirling around your tired body, reviving you with its liquid warmth. You are chatting with your buddies and gossiping about your professors. There is always something in the wind to discuss. Sometimes you daydream and plan your future. You all speculate about possible jobs and cities where you may live. If you are particularly mature, you might envisioned being married and having a batch of kids.

Whenever I get an invite to join the group in the hot tub, I respond instantly. I get out the cookie mix and whip up something to take along. My soft terry towel is in the dryer and I grab a swimsuit and shorts. Large hot tubs are the best for several people and if they have a Jacuzzi jet, you are in heaven. As young as we are, we do get our aches and pains. We play sports, clean house, jog and workout. Sometimes it is too much. While there is a hot tub at the gym, I prefer being with friends for a rip roaring good time.

It is a close second to being on a stool at the bar in the pub. My friends let me blast my Celtic music in between their own particular choices. They have all learned to love it as much as I do. When it is quiet, I almost fall asleep in the enveloping water. It is like a soothing, moving blanket that wraps you in its buoyant arms. There are times when no one talks or makes a move. We know we are ready for bed and our time is over until the next meeting.

Practically a Dream Job

I live in a dream part of Florida so why shouldn’t I expect a dream job. It won’t be at Disneyland since it is too far away and I am not one to commute long distances. I won’t move and leave my favorite bar behind, McGuire’s Irish Pub. They have an insane tradition of kissing a moose mounted on the wall—an ever so silly practice but everyone does it. As I always say in my blogs, we need more moose in this world, more fun and games to perk us up. Maybe after I graduate from college in about a year I will change my tune about jobs and relocation. For now, I am staying put.

I also like music (particularly Celtic) and enjoy frequent concerts and shows. There is a music festival every year nearby and you can bet on it that I will be attending. I am going to apply for any temp job so I can enjoy the atmosphere for the entire duration of the event. I looked and looked and finally turned up a job with a company that makes some of the best inflatable water slides on the market. It will be hot weather so these should be popular with the kids. They will be in high demand and I expect even to see adults partaking.

It turned out to be a great choice. It was great fun watching the kids frolicking about in the water as they descended into the huge pool. I mostly was tuned in, however, to the bands who were playing all night. There was quite a variety of music—something for every taste. The venue got crowded but no one minded. They were all just happy to be there. The kids seemed even happier when they reached the front of the water slide line. I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to work the festival. Please let me come back every year, but in a few years who knows where I will be. Hopefully, wherever it is, Florida or not, there will be a regional music festival like this one.

To me these music festivals provide more moose and plenty of fun and excitement. You get to discover new bands some of whom will be tops on the Billboard charts soon enough. You can watch their progress on the Internet, so I pick a few favorites. I was there so long at the festival that I got to know some band members. We were getting punchy at one point, and one musician/singer joined me on the water slide. It was hilarious to see us all wet. In the heat, we dried off in minutes. We took several turns before we agreed to stop and have a beer. So on this job, not only did I make money, watch the kids play, and hear great music, but I met a great guy. I never expected so much from a temporary job at a music festival. What a night.

Cold? I Don’t Know What That Is

One drawback of living here on the Gulf Coast is that we are pretty spoiled when it comes to the weather. It is typically warm, even in “winter.” If it is cold by you right now, I don’t recommend looking up the average temperatures here in Pensacola. It’ll just make you sad. I’ve never missed school because of snow (hurricane damage, yes. Snow, not so much). With the beach just a couple of minutes’ drive from my front door, though, I never felt like I was missing out. It’s kind of a no-brainer. Snow maybe a few times a year vs having the beach all year long? My parents picked the beach, and given a choice, I would, too.

It’s weird to think I grew up without snowboots or, well, a winter coat. Don’t get me wrong, I probably have worn a pair of gloves or two, and I do have a jacket—not a stay puft marshmallow man kind of jacket all those crazy northerners seem to need—but it keeps me warm on those blustery 45 degree evenings. And no, I don’t expect you to feel sorry for me as you have flashbacks of having to shovel yourself out of your driveway the past couple of winters.

My dad hates putting the heat on. I mean, hates it. We have this awesome Lasko space heater in the living room. It is a portable fireplace, which seems silly now that I just spent I don’t even know how long telling you it doesn’t get cold here, but the fireplace actually has the option to look like a pretty fireplace without the giving-off-heat bit. Which is why, in the middle of a heat wave in July, you can find me curled up in an armchair next to the fireplace reading a book. It’s like that yule log they show on TV at Christmastime, except I can still use the TV to watch something else.

Anyway, we had a bit of a nasty storm last week and it got…um…chilly, I guess is the right word. When it rains for a few days and there’s no sun, two things happen. One: it gets cooler, and two: everyone gets more grumpy and hostile. I wanted to turn on the heater just so I could sleep but my dad vetoed that idea. I ended up unzipping a sleeping bag and using that as an extra comforter because Dad we don’t have extra blankets. And also? Taking the Lasko into my room. Cause guess what, baby, it’s a portable heater. So I ported it directly into my room. Whoohoo. I slept as snug as a bug in a rug. My dad was pissed the next morning when he went into the living room to warm up and his heater was gone, though. I would have loved to have seen his face when he realized it was gone, but I was too busy dreaming of a cold beer, sand between my toes, and some great live Celtic music. Hahaha! Maybe next time he’ll think twice and let me turn on the heat!

Home Depot with Dad

Needing more moose is kind of a secret code word for fun, silly, and whimsical things that spice up one’s life and make you look on the brighter side of things. It’s kind of like seeing the glass half full instead of half empty. We should all be that positive. It comes from a tradition in a local waterhole, McGuire’s Irish Pub; and I try to apply this principle to my life. It means I don’t sweat the small things and get overwrought about nothing. Take the fact that my dad smokes and it drives me crazy but he seems to be a bit in denial and won’t do anything about it. It is affecting his health as seen in some rather labored breathing. Since he won’t stop, I had to get creative and think of something that would alleviate his symptoms at home. This is how I discovered an air purifier for cigarette smoke. It also grabs allergens, pollen, odors, bacteria, germs, spores, etc. from the air, but I want it for a very specific reason. It is designed for the express purpose of cleaning the air and thus should help my dad breathe easier.

So I took dad for a visit to the Home Depot to pick out an air purifier of his choice; and there are lots of them. This is my version of more moose to solve a problem, and it worked. He didn’t want to hook one up to the HVAC system, just an easy, lightweight portable that he could put in the bedroom at night while he was sleeping. Above all, he wanted a quiet model so it wouldn’t keep him awake. He also wanted a good filtering system and as such, he wouldn’t mind changing them from time to time. The fancy air purifier we both liked warns you just when it is time to clean the machine and replace the filter. So high tech! He liked that aspect a lot and checked all the parts over and over trying to detect their operation. He is a bit of a tinkering type after all.

He also wanted to be sure the unit we selected did not emit any ozone which in any amount is not good for humans. I don’t know why they do, but it makes the appliance more effective and efficient. But no, this was out. A safe HEPA filter was the option of choice. They have a good reputation and are particularly good at filtering tobacco smoke. It is so nice to have a house that doesn’t reek and give his nasty habit away. An air filter should have been part of his life years ago, but he make all kinds of excuses. He said he only smoked outside, which was a bald-faced lie. Loads of smoke got in through open doors and windows, so it was of no help.

Meanwhile, I am happy to report that my dad enjoys clean air so much that he is breathing better and is even motivated to limit his smoking so as to avoid despoiling the air indoors since it is no nice and fresh. Once you have a taste of the good air, there is no going back.

The Perfect Gift

What do you give to the person who has everything for a birthday or holiday gift? What do you give your father, for that matter, when you see him in a childish light? No matter how old you are, he is daddy and you are his little girl. Does that ever change? Maybe when you are 65, and maybe not! Gifts usually reflect that initial and innate relationship. As a kid, you make drawings or ceramic horses. As a teen, you think of food or a ticket to his favorite team game. As a young adult, you sit and think awhile to come up with an answer. It is surely not a tie. It is surely not a book. You ponder long and hard.

After contemplation and some soul-searching, I finally arrived at a possibility on one recent occasion. It seemed just right. I would give my father a personalized set of pint glasses and a cocktail set for his birthday. So let’s jump back a bit and see why. There was a clear reasoning behind my decision. My dad has a rec room, or man cave as people now call them. It is his space to use to invite friends – mostly other fathers in the neighborhood for a ball game or round of poker. He loves his room and uses it every weekend. I can’t imagine him relaxing anywhere else at night.

He had always served beverages for so many years in his special realm until one summer he built a wine bar/wet bar combination. Wow. It added a touch of real class to the place. All of a sudden everyone was collecting wine by the case and talking about domestic wineries. Then they jumped to ale and started talking about pints. There were many foreign brands to taste and explore. The wine fridge now had a cousin – a nice little beer fridge sitting next to it to hold all the brands. They were glass and chrome repositories of fun. Cocktails soon followed, but these were for friends of both him and my mom. In short, he had the setup but not all the details.

I knew what was missing and made it my mission to find it. The items I bought would fit nicely on the upper shelves and counter. They would be a kind of display, but mostly a reminder of me away from home, but still thinking of him. That is what I had hoped deep in my heart. I wanted something practical that he would use, and I struck the right cord.

So if you are looking for the perfect gift, give it some reflection. As you become older, your selection becomes more personalized. You don’t opt for the easy way out and get something generic. You think about the person in their daily life. I love to hear how much dad likes his present and how much he uses the glasses and the cocktail set. I know I can add new items to his wet bar as the years go by.

Awesomeness of Bagpipes

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So my dad used to tell me a story about how McGuire’s Irish pub had a protester for awhile. I think he was protesting drunk people or something. My dad is a little fuzzy on the details, and there’s a reason for that. Anyway, McGuire’s put up a sign with the guy’s phone number and home address, and it explained why he was yelling stuff through a megaphone at everyone, but there wasn’t much else they could do. Then somebody got the great idea that they could have a bagpiper stand outside (this is Gulf Coast Florida, after all. The weather’s going to cooperate with a guy in a kilt most of the year) and play music right over the guy yelling.Worked like a charm. You can’t hear much over bagpipes. My dad says the piper’s name was Sam, and he took requests and everything. My dad’s ex-Navy, so, of course, he had Sam play Anchors Aweigh. He still laughs about it, and I think this was a decade ago.That’s my dad, always talking about how cool he was. I’ve been hearing this story since I was small. At least it got me hooked on bagpipes.

I wonder what other problems we could solve with a bagpiper.

First of all, have you ever heard them inflating and tuning? Think of a beautiful song. Then imagine that song being murdered. That’s the sound of someone prepping bagpipes.Take a listen.  I think we could use that noise to our advantage as some sort of sound weapon. Like the alarm for sheltering-in-place. I really do love the idea of having a bagpiper follow me around who just plays music at anyone saying stuff I don’t want to hear, though. That would be great. Whenever my boyfriend tries to fight with me, I’d get the piper to play something right over whatever stupid thing was coming out of his mouth. It would prevent a LOT of arguments. I’m just saying. Although I do love bagpipes, so I might take anything as an excuse.

Did you know that bagpipes are an incredibly versatile instrument? No, really, they aren’t just for St. Patrick’s Day parades or for playing Amazing Graceat funerals(although, in my humble opinion, playing that song on the bagpipes before international conflict resolution meetings would make the world a better place.)There’s even a Wikipedia page about the awesome use of bagpipes in many types of music.My personal favorite is in Gaelic music or in rock music because I think it can have that tough edge to it. I don’t really listen to jazz, so I can’t vouch for pipes adding anything there. But it fits right in with classical music, too. There’s even a band called Pipapelli, out of North Carolina, who use the bagpipes instead of a guitar. It’s a unique, unusually cool, and very interesting sound!

Anyway, I hope this gave you a little more insight into one of my very favorite instruments, the bagpipes!

Quality Craftsmanship

I love being a college student and living on my own. It was one of the big attractions of graduation. It is the ultimate freedom because it is so recent and new. You really have a foot in two worlds. You are out of your parent’s hair and in your own individual zone. You are learning to fend for yourself and make your own way. It is delirious in its open-ended possibilities; and I relish it completely.

There are periods of adjustment and changes that have to be made. While you are on your own, you do take the past with you in objects and memories. The memories come in the form of a kind of mild homesickness for your regular routine. Sure, you call your parents and relatives, but you see them less often. As for objects, the dominant ones in my life when I relocated were parts of a childhood bedroom set including a rather moth-eaten mattress, a night stand, and a bed frame. It was a bit unsightly as it stood in my tiny room, seemingly out of place. But it had witnessed a lot of personal history, so there it stayed.

I wasn’t about to give up something free in any case, and I needed a bed right out of the box. Used was just fine. I didn’t know that two months later, I would make a good find. While wandering near the college and admiring the shops, I stumbled upon a used furniture store that appeared to have many antiques. This was an immediate draw as it meant good quality for a very little price. There would be no new items coming my way during that first semester.

I entered the premises with some anticipation. I had a sixth sense about the place. It was huge and jam packed full of stuff from old wood dressers to headboards. I gravitated quickly to this area and was overwhelmed with choices. They were all beautifully made, some hand carved with floral and scrollwork. I was rapt with attention and almost failed to notice the prize in my midst: a headboard the size of the best mattress that I could afford, with Celtic knots gracing the surface. They even had a matching pillowcase set, so that my pillows for neck pain would also match the headboard.

While there are many such emblems, they are all descendants of ancient Ireland during the old Roman Empire. These knots were used for religious decoration such as manuscript illumination of which the Book of Kells is the most famous. The abstract basket weave pattern that is characteristic is intricate and insanely beautiful. I have been obsessed with them for some time.

With my love for Celtic culture, you can imagine my surprise and delight. It couldn’t be! A Celtic knot on a headboard in a used furniture store in town. How did it get there? From where did it come? The shop owner really didn’t know much more than the fact that it was, indeed, Irish, and a hundred years old. He said that no one had identified the pattern before. He was thrilled to give me a good price on the headboard knowing my student status. I left a very happy girl.

Celtic Heritage and Music Festival

St. Augustine, which is a bit of a drive from here but so what, has an awesome festival for Saint Patrick’s Day (this year it is the weekend prior). They say they are the oldest Celtic city in the country, so they go all out, which sounds good to me! It’s so Celtic it even has clan registration information available on the website, and they can win awards. Sounds pretty authentic, doesn’t it? For me, it conjures up visions of pipe and drum bands and lots of tartan. I am so going this year. I asked for tickets for Christmas; I even convinced my dad that he’d like to go, to kind of tip the scales in my favor. Bad, I know, but a girl’s gotta do what she can to get what she wants, right? And my dad loves live music anyway. Other than work, he doesn’t do much, so at least this way we both get to have a little fun.

Anyway, back to the festival. They have crazy competitive Highland games, and all kinds of vendors, from clothes and jewelry to food. Whoohoo! I am definitely going to be on the lookout for some funky one-of-a-kind earrings. I also want to see their St. Patty’s parade, which should be awesome. It’s only been around a couple of years, but it is huge already. I bet it is the next best thing to either New York City’s or Boston’s—both my dream places to go for St. Patty’s, and I will get there one day I’m sure.Maybe one day when I’m not a broke college girl, hahaha.

The thing I am most looking forward to is the music. There’s going to be at least 8 main stage performances, and then there’s some more performers on the second stage (they have magic acts, an author, and some additional musicians). It’s going to be so much fun. I cannot wait to hear Rathkeltair because their founding members (including the bagpiper, oh joy!) were originally in a super cool band called Seven Nations. And, awesomely enough, Seven Nations is also playing, so I get to see both. How great is that? I am going to optimistically root for some kind of reunion song or something. These are the bands that have inspired much of the popular Celtic rock out there right now (think Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphies, stuff like that) so it is going to be very cool to see where the sound originated. Personally, I think a festival like this is the best way to see live music anyway. It just feels like more of an experience to me than standing around indoors with the sound bouncing all over the place. Give me a beautiful blue sky, some green grass, and some music, and I am a happy camper!

Anyway, that’s my plan for St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Are you jealous, because you totally should be. What about you? What are your plans?

A Favorite Place

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One of my dad’s favorite restaurants is McGuire’s Irish Pub here in Florida. He’s very anti-chain restaurant, and since there’s only two of these, that makes it OK. I’ve been going there practically since I was a baby, and so it kind of became my place, too. Aside from the food—which is really good—and the bar—another highlight—it’s just a great place to be. It used to be an old firehouse. That means it’s pretty big, but it can get crowded in the summer. Despite the fact that so many people here are transitional (we are a Navy town, after all), it still feels like a community. Like home.

The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in (aside from the fantastic smells coming from the kitchen) is the dollars. So. Many. Dollars. They’re stapled to every wooden surface in the place: on the walls,sides of the booths, on theceiling, just about everywhere as far as you can see. Some of them are mine J There’s supposedly over a million dollars up there, and you kind of have to see it to believe it. It’s really cool to see and even more fun to add to! It makes the return trip that much more fun as you hunt to find your money (that’s probably been buried by other people by then).

Some tips for an even better experience: definitely go when there’s music. You won’t be sorry. Or try sitting in the wine cellar, because it’s the coolest room in the place. Get the seasonal beer, or the Irish Wake (TBH, I just like the cool mason jar glass they come in). Eat the bread they’ll bring you. It is amazing. Try the Senate Bean Soup. It’s $0.18. You read that right. You can’t go wrong when all you’d lose is less than a quarter. I’d get a steak, too, because that’s what I like, but you check out the menu and decide for yourself, haha. If it’s your first time, go over and kiss the moose. Be warned, if the staff knows and you don’t, they might sing until you do so consider yourself warned: there aren’t a lot of words to the song, it can be both embarrassing and funny (depending on your sense of humor and whether you’re the one being sung to).

It’s a little piece of Ireland sitting near a Florida beach. I might not feel the same way about it if not for my dad—I think when he was stationed here and missing home, this place hit the spot, which makes his obsession a little more understandable—but I’m glad that we have this place together.

It’s nice to be a part of that kind of tradition, even if it’s only marginally so. I hope that no matter how far away life takes me, I can find my way back there and there will be a moose on the wall to kiss when I come home.

Good Places to See Shows

One of the best things—to me, at least—about being a music fan is getting to see the bands I like live. It’s getting easier as I have more access to a car (or a ride). I try to go to McGuire’s whenever they have somebody on stage, because it’s usually my type of music, and anyway, I like it there. They always have the information up on their website.

Sometimes they’ll have somebody cool playing at the Vinyl Music Club. The Vinyl is nice but the sound is intense, so I try to at least bring cotton to stuff in my ears. Also, it’s usually a standing-room-only situation, so keep that in mind if you go. Some of the shows can get…well, rowdy, and can get uncomfortable–especially for small girls like me. Anyway, there are some pretty surprising bands who play there, and because it is small, it is pretty awesome to see them there. I got to see the Old 97s there once, and that was really amazing. Their website is pretty informative, so check it out if you’re in the area!

Then there’s Seville Quarter, which I tend to avoid. Nothing against that place, I have friends who love it there, but I just feel like it tries to appeal to waaaay too many people. There’s a hip-hop room, and there’s dueling pianos and all kinds of other stuff. Think of the biggest bar and dance club you can possibly imagine, and it is kind of like that. It’s great for people who aren’t really sure what they feel like doing that night, so you can kind of try everything. The crowd has a LOT of lower-enlisted sailors, so if that’s something you’re into…well, the ratio is pretty good for us girls anyway. However, they do cool events sometimes, like the Frank Brown Songwriter’s Festival. I highly recommend finding out what is going on before you head over there.

And then there is Bands on the Beach.Lucky for me, because we live on the Gulf Coast of Florida, summer concert season runs on Tuesdays (I don’t know why) from April through October.I actually really like seeing shows here, and they have a decent variety of groups. I look on the Pensacola Beach website a couple of times each season and pick what I’d like to see. I get to sit on a lawn chair, and it is just a really cool atmosphere. I mean, how bad can life be when you’re watching waves crash on the beach and listening to some great music? Especially in April, when you can see on the news that some places are still getting SNOW. No thanks!

Occasionally you have to go to Mobile—which isn’t too far—to see somebody. If it’s a really big name, though, you may have to go all the way to New Orleans—I am trying to convince a friend to go with me in the spring so I can catch Mumford and Sons. They are fairly mainstream but still folksy, and that’s what I like.

Where to Find Good Celtic Music

If you’re interested in Celtic or Irish music, there are some things you need to figure out. First of all, there’s some weird terms involved. For example, it took me forever to figure out that Bainseo means banjo. And Cruit (pronounced as krit) means harp. If you’re really interested, you can use this website for some of the terms.

The big problem for me as a Celtic music fan (who doesn’t live in a major city, at least) is that it isn’t always easy to get access to great music. However, as long as I have an internet connection, I’m set. I can stream music straight from Glasgow from a UK streaming service. It’s a pretty cool site. I especially like their Album of the Week, where they feature a CD and do an interview with the group. I can really get a feel for the music that way.

There’s also a live365 app I can listen to on my phone. They have—get this—49!!!! different Celtic stations for you to pick from. They’ve got everything from dance to traditional pub style music to Celtic rock. Some of the stations are free, and some aren’t. My favorite is the Celt Rock station. Aside from the great music, they also have a fairly active forums site that can be found here. I especially like their music forum and the video library. I can find a lot of music there and if you’ve got some time, I definitely recommend it. To be honest, it’s kind of a black hole of atime suck, though, so consider yourself warned.

The absolute best place to find good music, though, is by seeing it live. Bands are usually pretty good about posting tour dates and ticket information but what if you don’t know enough groups, or if you’re inhibited by geography like I am? I can’t imagine what it’d be like to have a huge amount of venues near me like in London or LA or something. I have to actively look for stuff if it isn’t playing right at McGuire’s. So aside from getting in with the people who know at an Irish pub type place that has live music, the best thing I’ve found is searching fora Celtic, Scottish, or Highland Festival that’s nearby. You’ll get to see more bands at once that way, which is always fine by me! I’ve been to the Panama City Scottish Festival and Highland Games before, and it is a pretty good time. I haven’t been able to find much info on it for this coming year, so I’ve made other plans. If you’re interested in that, you can go on the Association of Scottish Games and Festivals and search by your state. If you don’t see your state listed, don’t worry. There’s also an angelfire site where you can look up Irish/Celt festivals, so there are even more opportunities. My last suggestion is to find a really good St. Patrick’s Day parade near you. They usually have pipe and drum bands marching, but if it is a big enough parade, they might have a show or two. I used to make my parents take me to Santa Rosa Beach to see the St. Patrick’s Day parade, and I got to listen to some music that way, too.

It takes a little work, but it’s sooo worth it!