Entry 02
The Real-Estate Ride
By J.P. Partland
Saturday, May 19, 2001

Saturday, we needed to get a ride in and wanted to do more than just Dublin’s Phoenix Park. Two-to-three hours of easy spinning that took us out to the countryside seemed like the right idea. Joe Papp and I headed west out of the hotel to Celbridge and beyond, retracing the route our team rode yesterday.

Started out in a drizzle, but that quickly gave way to gray skies. Only slight winds.

Even though we rode the bus lane of the nearby highway for five or six miles, even though we rode side-by-side on narrow two-lane roads without shoulders, even though we were taking a big chunk out of the roadway wherever we went, not a honk was sounded in anger against us. Not a voice was raised in anger. No one even flipped us the bird. What a beautiful day.

Since we were tooling around in residential areas, my mind started drifting to real estate. My old training partner Greg Vadas and I used to do what we called “real estate rides” when we were both in the mood to sit on our bikes and slowly work the lactic acid out of our legs. It wasn’t that we coveted the houses we looked at, but that we actively wondered about them. Why the owners chose that design or color, what’s up with the addition it looks like they put on recently, who lives inside? One of our more memorable real estate moments was when we passed a house in Haworth, NJ that had a front door, but no steps leading up to it. The house appeared to be lived in, but they didn’t have any steps from the ground to the door for at least six months. We didn’t know if they simply didn’t want people visiting or if they were merely practical, choosing instead to use the garage for entry and exit. Besides, front doors in the suburbs are largely for keeping people out.

The real estate question on my mind for this spin in the Irish countryside or suburbs was: what socio-economic class lives in which kind of housing? There were apartments, attached houses, stand-alone houses, and various condo-like situations. As a rule, the housing is small, much smaller then in the US. The stand-alone homes out in the country were too nice to belong to farmers, unless they were gentleman farmers, I guessed. Unlike the US, there were neither fences nor open ground from the road to the house. Hedges, which Joe surmised were windbreaks stopped things.

On the way back, we stopped for tea and schones. Joe had tea and schones. I had hot chocolate and schones. Very low key. We leaned our bikes against the curb and went in. One of the women behind the counter had one of those old-styled baseball-type undershirts with “New York” jersey # 60. Even though I know I see things with foreign place names all over New York, it is still strange to see my hometown on somebody’s shirt an ocean away. Before we left, we got pegged as Americans by a Canadian who had just moved from Vancouver. He was hoping that he could make good coin as a Flash animation programmer in Ireland. Apparently, even with the worldwide access to such programming, Irish sites still aren’t utilizing this technology.

Our Canadian friend said that most of the open land was used for farming, but that most people worked in Dublin. A bedroom community with its own sheep seems to be the easiest way to explain it.

We decided we didn’t want to take the highway back to the hotel, so we took a guess at which way to go. We were told we were going in the exact opposite direction by a woman on the side of the road. Besides, she told us, we didn’t want to see the town up that way; “it’s a one-horse town.” She gave us a few choices of which way to go, then she asked us about our homes. Turns out, here sister lives in New York City’s Stuyvesant Town, a middle-class housing project across the street from the sister project Peter Cooper Village, where I spent eight of my formative years. And her daughter lived in Chicago, so she’d be visiting soon.

Before I left for Ireland, I had been in contact with Seamus Shortall, the webmaster for the race. He had asked me a few questions about New York, as he’ll be visiting in June. I made a few suggestions, but then asked if he hadn’t been to the US already. I’ve heard that traveling to the US or living there is almost a rite of passage for the Irish. He responded that it hasn’t been the case since 1850. This woman isn’t the first I’ve met here with family in America. Got to ask around more.

We ended up taking a few more carriageways back to the highway; it cut off a few miles of highway, but we finished up on what we came in on, despite the hope that the river Liffey, which runs from Celbridge to the heart of Dublin, would take us. It didn’t seem like a riverside road was around for the taking. We still got in a shade less than three hours, including a few stops in Dublin center. Dublin was packed; they’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, as foot and mouth disease (FNM-as we see on signs) canceled the traditional march 17 timing.

Later, when I was waking up from my afternoon nap--trying to be the pro racer--roommate Joe Miller was watching Euro MTV. They had a special on: Celebrity Cribs. Rappers, athletes, and assorted music stars showed off their homes. Penny Hardaway took us on a tour of his palatial estate. Before we saw his bedroom, he pointed to a picture on the wall of the house he grew up in. It was four rooms, and smaller than his current bedroom. He liked keeping it up to remind him of where he came from. But then, we saw that his bedroom was larger than most NYC apartments, and learned that his bed was his best friend. Hyperbole, I hope. Our hotel room was probably smaller than three of his beds put together.

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