I am going to begin my first rambling with a documentation of a trip I recently took to the small city of Syracuse, NY last weekend, Sept. 10 – 13, 2009. It was actually a business trip, the first one of my life, and I went on it with my dear friend, fellow trouble maker and for the weekend, generous beneficiary, Kristin. Kristin’s mom owns an Irish goods store in Denville, NJ. You can check it out on the web at http://www.faithandbegorra.com
Her mom often vends her merchandise at Irish festivals along the east coast, but had double booked herself for that particular weekend and asked if Kristin and I would like to vend for her. She offered to pay us cash, purchased all of our meals and put us up in the extremely comfortable Syracuse Marriott Renaissance Hotel for three nights. The bed was perhaps the most fluffy and comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in, and the shower water came from a huge head in the ceiling. The hotel had about 20 floors, it was very tall and round. We had trouble getting lost with a landmark like that!
Kristin showed up at my house Thursday afternoon in a big, white utility van her mom had rented for us. “I look like a pedophile driving this thing,” she stated upon arrival. I got a good laugh out of that.
Unfortunately the music situation in the big white van, which we quickly named Bessie, was only that of AM/FM radio. Radio scans for the entire four hour ride led us to a multitude of classic hits such as Duncan Sheik’s “I am Barely Breathing”, which I sadly decided was the best of the available songs playing at the time. We also heard chart toppers like Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Night”, Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me” and Nirvana’s “All Apologies”. The best song we heard on radio scan came on at precisely 1:48pm and was the one I had been singing the entire time, Chuck Berry’s “No Particular Place To Go.” I made a note of disappointment when Kristin made us listen to Pearl Jam’s (I think) “Yellow Ledbetter” over ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”. 😉
We arrived to the Renaissance hotel at approximately 4:20pm. The woman working the front desk must have thought we were a gay couple and asked if we would like one king size bed. (We ended up with two full size beds.)
We didn’t have to be to the Guinness Irish Festival until noon on Friday, so we took advantage of our free night and headed out for a night on the Syracuse town. It was my first time in the city! Our hotel offered us a free shuttle and the very nice driver Fred, who looked about 80, brought us to the part of town known as Armory Square. The area was suggested to me by a friend who one time lived in Syracuse, and Fred backed up his recommendation.
Immediately after stepping off the shuttle bus we saw a sign for a store called “Way Off The Beaten Path”. The sign said it sold hand-made jewelry, clothing and things of that nature, so Kristin said we should go there because it looked like “our kind of store.”
The boutique was down this cute little alley-way, and we smelled the wafting incense as soon as we rounded the corner…
The woman who owned the shop, Angelique Mango, was so nice and peaceful, and almost mesmerizing. She said she designed all the clothing herself and has it manufactured in India, where she pays women that grew up in a certain orphanage to make the clothes. She made it sound like a wonderfully philanthropic buisness venture, and I supported her by purchasing a beautiful skirt for the fall! Can you believe it was only $25?
Ms. Mango also had a beautiful assortment of casted stone jewelry, house decor and delicious incense in scents I have never seen elsewhere! Check out her goods at http://www.wayoffthebeatenpath.com
After my shopping spree Kristin and I settled for a beer at The Limerick Pub. We took a stroll down the main road, saw the infamous “24 second shot clock” used in basketball, and then patroned the Blue Tusk bar for the rest of our evening. The Blue Tusk was also recommended to me by the friend who at one time lived in Syracuse, and it proved itself to be a highly respectable joint.
When Kristin and I arrived to Blue Tusk at 7:30pm we were happy. The Allman Brothers Band was playing on the stereo, there were a lot of customers, the staff was friendly and fun-loving, and most importantly, they had a pretty righteous beer selection! (though only a few are pictured.)
Throughout the course of the night I had two of everything that mattered, except dinner. I had two pints of Magic Hat #9, two pints of Magic Hat Roxy Rolles, two shots of jagermeister mixed with peach schnapps and cranberry juice, but only one half of the chicken sandwich I ordered for dinner.
All in all, the night was thoroughly enjoyed. We made some new friends, listened to some good tunes, and got a taxi back to our hotel around midnight. However, the fun didn’t end there. Only moments after Kristin passed out in her bed, I began puking in the bathroom. My body does not do well with alcohol on a full stomach, let alone on an empty one. After getting sick I passed out for 4-5 hours, but was up and over the toilet by 6:30am. I couldn’t keep a dang thing down until 4pm, and although I was able to help Kristin unload our van full of Irish goods and set up our shelter on Friday afternoon, I was not of much assistance when it came to setting up. It took me about an hour to put 20 items onto hangers because I had to keep running to the porta-potty to expel whatever I had tried to eat or drink. All I have to say is thank g-d the festival hadn’t started yet and the porta-pottys had never been used. I got way too close for comfort to those things that weekend, and I don’t ever want to talk about it again.
The festival started at 5pm on Friday, and after a short nap at the hotel, I was able to help Kristin hustle those Irish goodies! Here’s a shot of the people and vendors in action…
I had a chance to briefly check out the headlining band Friday night, Gaelic Storm. I noted that “the band seemed cool. The bag pipe player looked sexxy from my view, and there was a pretty little blonde lady on fiddle.” On Saturday night I again briefly checked out the headlining band, The Young Dubliners. The musicians were not as attractive as Friday night, but their music had a trememdous amount of energy and they obviously gave it their all. Fans were all the Irish rage!
On Saturday the festival started at 10am and we had to be there bright and early to re-open shop. Business boomed that day. Namesake pins and embroidered baby clothes – apparantly not a bad way to go. I had a very good time vending with Kristin. It was really an incredibly perfect way for us to make some extra cash. We both have the camping/setting up shop skills, and unfortunately or not, we both have plenty of retail sales knowledge. Saturday was a very long day, about 14 hours of work, but I never felt tired. As Kristin’s mom said, “It’s like being high without the drugs!”
Here’s a shot of Kristin in our little shop during a slow period…
I had three favorite customers of the weekend I would like to document. One was a large teenage boy who really wanted an authentic Irish tweed Hannah Hat that we had in his size, XXL. He said he had a very hard time finding that style hat that fit him, but he didn’t have the money to buy it. I wrote down all the hat’s information for him on a piece of paper to take home so that he could one day buy it on the Internet once he had saved up enough money, and he went on his way. The next day, this woman came back with the piece of paper and said she was his aunt and was going to buy the hat for him as an early holiday gift, since she never knows what to get for him anyway! The boy got his hat miracle! It made my little day. My next favorite customer was actually not a customer, but a three-year-old girl who had a full arm cast on. I asked her what was on her arm and she said a cast because she broke her arm, and she showed me a diagram on her cast someone had drawn of two bones, one of which was broken. I asked her if she liked wearing the cast and she said yes, because it made her feel safe. Precious. The last customer that topped my list was an older man, in his 60s, who walked in, picked out a dark green tweed hat, looked so darn cute in it and he bought it…so that made me happy as well!
I really enjoyed the Guinness Irish Festival. The food vendors actually had an appealing selection of foods, everyone was in good spirits and I saw Irish dancers and bands. There were a lot of inebriated people there, especially Saturday night, but it was all in good fun. Nothing too crazy to report on.
The festival ended at 11pm on Saturday and we had to pack up our shop and load everything back into Big Bessie. Kristin and I both woke up starving on Sunday morning and on the ride back home we stopped at some middle-of-nowhere- diner the navigation system led us to in Onondaga National Territory somewhere in central, NY. Here is a picture alongside of the rather desolate road we drove down for 20 minutes to get to said diner…
On the ride back to Jersey Kristin was pulled over for speeding, the officer said she was clocked going 85 mph in the rental van. Luckily he only have her a citation for “ignoring traffic signs”, which was no points on her license and a much less expensive fine.
We made it back home alive and I was slightly sad the weekend had come to an end. Syracuse was a nice town that treated us well, and I hope to see it again someday!