The Moments Drag.

I took a remarkable trip to Glasgow last night to see one of my favorite vocalists, Mark Lanegan, at the Cathouse, an amazing little club in the heart of the city. I’ve finally realized some things about the Edinburgh/Glasgow juxtaposition, and I also have a strange tale of monetary woe for the night, if you’d care to peruse…

Though I’ve spent a good amount of time in Glasgow, downtown and otherwise, I never quite saw it like I did last night. It might have been just a feeling of finally not “being a tourist” anymore, and shelving my wide-eyed discomfort with such a busy, huge, and ancient place. Or maybe it was just a particularly good night to go. Christmas decorations are everywhere, lighting up the gridded streets with virulent cheer, and the endless buildings lining every avenue and alley confer upon the downtown area the feeling of being inside a huge, long room–kind of like a mall, but with boundless more character. And the rain really came down all night, adding to the ambiance and clearly reminding me that this is a distinctly *British* city.

There’s a sort of rivalry between Glaswegians and Edinburgers, sometimes friendly, most often not. From what I’ve been told and what I can gather on my own, much of it comes from the ages-old conflict between Edinburgh’s touted status of “glorious capital” and Glasgow’s poverty-stricken working-class citizenry. Apparently the fact that Glasgow, far bigger and expansive than it’s eastern neighbor, has always been a mainstay of Scottish industry, still supporting thousands of blue-collar jobs and yet always getting the short end of the funding stick has built up quite a resentment in the hearts of many Glaswegians. Apparently, it’s always been that way. Building projects throughout the city are consistently held in stasis when money runs out–which is often–and in the past, Edinburgh would get the main allocation of funding, perhaps undeservedly in some cases, and often for more “fanciful” purposes, be it monuments on Calton Hill or intellectual pursuits, while the bulging population of Glasgow deals with interminable squalor and drug addiction. Of course Edinburgh has these latter problems too, but this type of capital favoritism has been going on for centuries.

But when faced with dire circumstances, whether it be the only Scottish city to be bombed in the Second World War, or being shunned by tourism for the glory and splendor of its sister, the personality and charm of Glasgow certainly makes up for their disheartening losses, and Glaswegians know it. It took me this long to see it, and of course this comes with the perspective of being in Edinburgh for months now. The former is a “real” city, to rival San Francisco or Chicago, and it feels that way for certain, and I felt part of that community as spiffington and I ran about the streets throughout the night. Yet I’ve always been naturally drawn to Edinburgh more easily. It has the feeling of a very old, small town. There are no huge office buildings, industrial blocks in the middle of the city, or hustle-bustle of a financial district downtown. It’s a place full of students and foreigners, both visiting and resident, and most of these folk have little time for chat or the crack of a light-hearted personality. Edinburgh hasn’t had all its ancient buildings torn down in lieu of modern industrialization, and the air of intellectual history is palpable there. And then there’s the castle… In Glasgow, everyone is chatty and charming, together comfortable in the difficulties of the daily rat race, though it takes a sure effort to get past one’s own insecurities and approach them. They’re hardy and proud and friendly and fun-loving. Clearly it’s the difference between a huge metropolis and a university town.

Your choices are legion. You can pick one or try a little of each. MacDonalds or Burger King? Coke or Pepsi?

With that behind, it’s on to a subtle description of purgatory–with a bullet.

£14 for a two-way train ticket to Glasgow during peak times of 5:30 to 6:30, which ScotRail disgustingly hikes up for that hour alone. The train is delayed for a half-hour, putting us near off-peak hours, anyway. It’s Lanegan’s birthday, and he falls asleep on the bus, so we wait with the other black-cloaked sardines for 45 minutes while he drinks and smokes to get his voice to the perfect grit of sandpaper of his choosing. That’s another £12, plus a shockingly good Italian meal for yet another £10. Fine. Thanks to our crooner’s unscheduled delay, we get out a half-hour after the last train back to Edinburgh leaves and are forced to eat the cost of the peak-hour ticket and run, along with a herd of disaffected Muse concert-goers panickingly realizing the same pickle, to the local bus station to find haven and a warm ride home. Once there, we see what surely must be the *entire* concert, attempting to load themselves on to two tiny buses. Two-hundred or more of us were left behind when the buses drove off, and it’s now midnight, in the rain and Novermber wind. That’s okay, though, because security informs us that the 11:00 bus that had previously left will be returning for another trip if we just wait until 1:00. We do. A new friend from Australia and I head to a chippy to grab some water, whereupon we’re regaled with a conversation between a Dubliner and a Glaswegian as to the wonders of cockles. That’s a jar of marinated mussels to those in the know. At 1:00 am, after two haggis rolls, black pudding, AND fish…for each of them. My god. All this to the sultry sounds of Dione Warwick’s “Heartbreaker” over the greasy transistor radio behind the nice Arabic man at the counter. So water in hand, back we go, hooking up with a couple of pizza-eating Glasgow youths who regarded us as if we were old friends, telling us of an action-packed story in which the owner of the chippy they just came from took down a nasty customer with a hand to the face and a sweep of the legs. Then they offered us some slices of their meal before we said goodbye and realized that the 1:00 bus had just arrived. Great! Nope! The bus sits there for fifteen minutes while they clean it (!) and then it takes one of the herd to actually go over there and find out that the driver is now “off-duty”…the bus turns around and drives off, devoid of passengers. That’s okay! The next one *might* come at 2:00, if we want to wait. The alternative is a £90 taxi ride back to Edinburgh, and cabs by law are only allowed to take five people, so that’s a bite on the wallet. At this point, we were seriously contemplating strolling through the drizzled city and finding a warm cuppa somewhere until the 5:00 early morning trains started up. We ultimately found a cabbie who offered us the tempting deal of £75 for six people, and after shelling out my last £13, six new friends giggled and sang all the way home. December is offical Darren Ramen Month. The end.

This is the first real rant you’ve ever experienced on this page. I shall try to make it the last, but this story was just too good to leave well enough alone. I’m going back to my thesis. Have a good day!

One Response to “The Moments Drag.”

  1. Anonymous Says:
    November 27th, 2003 at 2:59 pm

    Hey! How was the show? Any surprise guests? I am sure he played new material from his upcoming album (which I am supposed to review for Under The Radar) but I want to know if it's good stuff and if he put on a good show, in which case I will make a point to going to see him when he's in LA a few weeks from now…tell me, tell me…~(*

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