The Heart of the City; The Heart of Life

Tonight was surely one of the most wonderful I’ve yet encountered. I’m taking advantage of this downtime to write, detailed and often, of my experiences here in Glasgow. I imagine I shall not find such luxuries after my courses start. Forgive me if these words are boring, drawn-out, overly-romantic, or self-aggrandizing. None of these are meant in that fashion.

For Jennie’s birthday, Helen, Lindsay, and myself took a cab downtown to Arasiag, a wholly Scottish dining establishment down a clever alleyway, bathed in a purple neon glow and wreathed in Christmas lights. The place was named for the landing point of Prince Charles on his attempted seizure of the throne of Scotland during the Rebellion of 1745. We shared a Scots micro-brew at the bar as our table was being prepared (Kelpie Ale, a malty beverage named for the seal-folk of Celtic myth), and then we soon sat down to order. The atmosphere was cozy yet elegant, the service impeccable, and the mood, uplifting. I had been teased for some time to expect Scottish cuisine to be nothing more than famine food, but the reality is that our meal surely rivaled anything I have yet had in San Francisco, a true mecca of culinary delight. And I have had so much food in that city.

A brief recounting of my own menu: For starters, caraway seed bread and butter followed by whisky-infused bar-be-que beef ribs. For the main course, a breaded filet of veal drowned in creamy rosemary-cheese sauce, with crisp sautéed vegetables in a communal pot. Red wine flowed freely: Shiraz, then Cabernet. Toasts were made all around, and even though it was certainly the birthday girl’s night, and I kept diverting the focus where it belonged, the three of these wondrous people insisted on repeating the toast, “Welcome to Scotland,” aimed at me. One from Edinburgh, one from Fife, and one from Glasgow. All are magnificent, all three teachers, one of comparative religions, and two of music. Two generations relating and instructing. Hope Sandoval and Mazzy Star played over our passionate conversation, that drifted from disappointment in the current Scottish National Party’s platform to the true blame for the fatal repositioning of the Rebel lines at Culloden to the most important Scots authors of our time. Robert Louis Stevenson was mentioned more than once, and I insisted on waiting to read his seminal works until I could have a drink at Milne’s in Edinburgh, where he spent his free time while attending University there. To read such works in the places they were dreamed is beyond belief, and brings an entirely new appreciation for the field and the product itself.

The stories were fervent and accepted by all, and to have such excited, passionate people all sharing of such a wonderful conversation was second to none. We spoke of popular reaction to a Yankee studying Scottish History and appropriating it as his own. Accepted and appreciated. I had been told I might run into flack for such a goal, such a motivation. But all regarded my dream with admiration and care, and it only steeled my resolve to continue on. I heard strong opinions on childhoods raised inside Scotland, the effect of Irish nationalism upon Scottish identity, and stories of the founders of this land. There is a palpable pride here that we absolutely do not have. Absolutely. I revel in it.

Dessert came in the form of a grand cheese plate and biscuits, cheesecake and Scotch-touched coffee. I never drink coffee, but this was an exceptional night, in an exceptional time in my life. More talk, more passions shared, more acceptance and understanding. We are all kindred spirits, and other than my barbaric accent, I feel like I totally belong. Lindsay refused to let us pay for anything, and in astonishment, we stepped outside to wait for a taxi. It was only fitting that a fresh summer rain should fall on us as I took a few puffs of a delicious flavored cigarette. Once again, I never smoke, but the night demanded it.

The buzz from a small amount of good alcohol consumption is sometimes disorientating, mood-swinging, or emotion-evoking. Here, it is the National Way. Things are more clear and more comfortable, appropriate and satisfying. I can’t explain it more than this. I simply invite you out to see exactly what I mean. There is a risk, however, as evidenced by the so-called Chief of the Clan MaKay, a sorry sodder spitting at the women as we waited for the cab. I did my best to interspace myself between he and they, but I fear I was too late. He was harmless, as many drunks are, but one can only hear so much on English buggery, even if it is true. This man would find good company in the masses of Southies in America; the ones who voted for Bush. Same agenda, same disposition.

The cab ride home in the rain was punctuated by a stirring happenstance. Helen’s husband, Peter, was playing his beautiful radio show just as we were headed out, stomachs full and eyes-a-drooping. He has had a well-known program every Friday on Radio Clyde since time immemorial. Just as we settled down from the rain in the shelter of an old black cab, Peter announced a welcome on National Radio to myself, and a hearty Happy Birthday to his daughter, Jennie. Forty-thousand listeners. And we cheered loudly, and the driver turned it up.

I sat outside Craig Allen on the stoned partition wall, surely older than America itself, and finished my smoke. I remembered just a short while before sitting at Arasaig, cupping my warm Scotch coffee and thinking of all the times back home I’ve felt that the most wonderful things in the world are, without a doubt, good food, good drink, and vital friends. It’s a tradition that goes back forever. It means that we have the means to do so. The luxury time, and money, and will. It is an incredibly resolving activity to those who can appreciate its value, and I hope to never slip from the realization of just how fortunate I am to enjoy it. All these years, cupping my drink and being warm and excited at the prospect of doing so in a better, older place.

And now I’m Here, cupping a good drink, missing the Old People, but grinning maniacally to have found new Great Ones, as well. I’m here, finally. Not as a visitor, but as a citizen, if only for a while. It fills me with splendor, in every sense of the word. I’m full and happy and Home.

My final thought before drifting away to the remainder of Peter’s radio show, a warm cup of tea in my stomach: Amazing Grace, when played by a full pipe band, annihilates any Christian intonation of the meaning behind the song, and instills in it a much more prevalent emotional and Nationalistic air, one that transcends notions of race, religion, and political bent. It IS Scotland, plain and simple.

Thanks for tuning in tonight…

10 Responses to “The Heart of the City; The Heart of Life”

  1. kernoonus Says:
    September 5th, 2003 at 5:29 pm

    Woo hoo!
    You go girl! uhhh…guy! Man I envy you. Keep those words flowing! I want to live through yours writtings, if not your eyes.
    However…"Southies"? 🙂

  2. woe_sis Says:
    September 5th, 2003 at 9:06 pm

    Yeah, what's wrong with the tried and true "Southern Sonsabitches?" 😉
    D, beautiful retelling. Thank you for sharing.

  3. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 7th, 2003 at 11:34 am

    Re: Southies
    Um, I didn't want to insult Brad.
    But I've failed.
    Glad you enjoyed it, thanks for reading!

  4. divineseduction Says:
    September 5th, 2003 at 8:29 pm

    *smile* Thank you. That was nice.
    Did I mention I can't get this smile off my face? It's so .. heartening, heart-warming to be able to feel through your words that you're having such a grand time.

  5. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 7th, 2003 at 11:40 am

    Thank you so much. Your smile means a lot. And I've saved you some veal…

  6. Anonymous Says:
    September 6th, 2003 at 1:15 am

    Moving & Changing
    Hello my friend,
    Your journal entry tonight put a smile on my face and lightened my heart. I'm so glad this experience, a long time in coming and many nights talked of, is finally coming about in your life. Form me, the expansion of my knowledge, character and world views occurred much during my trips to Panama, Europe and Japan. I remember trying to explain what had happened and how I'd changed, but each time the words fell far short of the true experience. So, I'm very happy to see, through your writing, that you're having a similar wonderful experience.
    Blessings of good health and metal stimulation upon you my brother.
    With Love,

  7. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 7th, 2003 at 11:43 am

    Re: Moving & Changing
    What more could I ever ask for than your warm words of encouragement?
    How 'bout you? Waiting for yourself and B to come frolic through the heather.
    Cheers, brother. We have so much more to do.
    My true blessings are my friendships. And you're the oldest one.

  8. Anonymous Says:
    September 8th, 2003 at 4:40 pm

    Re: Moving & Changing
    Is that a stab at me being the "Old-man" in the group? But, seriously I've been deal another joker by my company. They recently rearranged the Field Organization, eliminated over a score of positions and let 21 people go. My position was eliminated through a merging with the Anaheim office. But, I've been kept on and offered the Phoenix Office, which covers Arizona, New Mexico, El Paso TX & Las Vegas NV. So, Josie and I will packing up the wagon and playing our gypsy toons as we travel east to a new home. Leaving LA will be a good thing. Living in AZ will probably be a hot experience.
    Take care and enjoy the cool blankets of fog.

  9. kratkrat Says:
    September 6th, 2003 at 1:37 pm

    I hope you realize how inspiring it was to read that, my friend. It is not possible, I would surmise, to read that without a broad grin spreading across one's face. You really captured things, and I thank you for sharing.
    One other note: Amazing Grace on the pipes… man. There's nothing like that. I'm not the weepy sort, but that's one to put a lump in a fellow's throat.

  10. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 7th, 2003 at 11:45 am

    And yet I would hold you while you wept. 🙂
    The pipes can make a drunk man sober, but it doesn't seem to be helping the general populace of this country one bit…
    I'm happy you're enjoying my stories. Come on out and we'll make some of our own. And you won't even have to help me move this time!

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