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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Super-Apples and Oranges

I like words.

I like using them as crutches insofar as quotes and phrases and cliches all carry more meaning than the individual words do on their own. Actually, since most words mean more than one thing, I guess a phrase like, "Live long and prosper" could mean many things examined atomically ("live" means both happening in real time as well as the command form of "to live"; "long" is both a verb and an adjective, etc.) but the trees would not portray the forest of Mr. Spock, Star Trek, and all of the other cultural context inherent--and generally understood--in those words.

I like kicking those crutches out from under people, too. Puns and silly alliteration and other plays on words are fun for me and sometimes they're even funny for people to whom I'm communicating. Establishing and subsequently betraying expectations is, along with getting kicked in the groin, one of the bedrocks of comedy. I make no claim to be hilarious (at least not in this space, with Obama watching) but I know a bit about funny. I think. Maybe.

Phrases that we all know are like shortcuts. Part of their genius is that we don't need to think of why they mean what they mean. We don't need to dissect them to get to truth.

He's champing at the bit.

She's dressed to the nines.

Let's cut a rug.

Etc., etc.

You don't NEED to know it's "champing", rather than "chomping". You don't need to know wtf "the nines". You get it.

It's interesting, though, to sometimes examine a particular phrase and dissect it a bit. And I'm going to do that here with a phrase that's even more obvious than the four I listed above.

It's apples and oranges.

Simple, right? You can't compare them. Apples are one fruit, oranges are another. One is sweet with a skin you can eat and one is sweet/tart with a peel you need to, uh, peel.

They both grown on trees. You can drink juice made from each of them.

But they're apples and oranges.

Strictly speaking, you CAN substitute one for the other. You CAN prefer one over the other.

If we wanted to have things that you can't really do that with, it seems the phrase could be "It's like apples and a Nobel Prize" or "It's like Batman and oranges".

So, assuming we can substitute one for the other, it seems that the point is that one fruit offers something that the other either does not or does not in the same degree.

(Let's treat this as if consumers believe that more is always better, OK? I know some people don't LIKE things that are too sweet, but this is a thought experiment and fruit could be substituted for people, with the axes being, say, sense of humor and education level. Whatever.)

[graph: apple and orange on "Sweet" and "Tart" axes]

In this case, a consumer of fruit can decide which of the attributes they prefer. Each consumer might value the two benefits differently, and even at different time (think: impending scurvy), and so while "apples and oranges" is cliche for not being able to be compared, they are actually pretty good options for different people and/or at different times. Just because there's not a single final answer of which is better doesn't mean they can't be compared.

Compare that to, say, an apple and a super-apple. I just made the super-apple up, but imagine that it looked something like this:

[graph: apple and super-apple on "Sweet" and "Tart" axes]

Again, assuming "more is better", the super-apple is the superior choice for all people at all times. The super-apple renders the apple obsolete.

But there's no "apples and super-apples" cliche.

I thought up this rambling partially as a result of watching Scott Pilgrim vs. the World the other night. It was the 124th time I've seen it (roughly), and the line that stuck with me this time was after the protagonist gets dumped for another guy and his friend said, "That's probably just because he's better than you."

Scott Pilgrim was the apple and he'd met a super-apple.

When I ponder the women that have chosen others over me, I wonder if they are oranges or if they are super-apples. I wonder if, whatever the woman saw in me they saw MORE of in the other guy, or if they simply saw other things that they preferred to my things.

Which would I prefer?

Why do I worry about it?

More importantly, why am I writing about it?

I guess I just don't have that much else to do.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Scotland: Day 4 Part II

So there I was. 3:00 AM in Inverness, Scotland. Drunk but not too-drunk, feeling victorious over the powers of Original B, and standing on steps outside a bar, trying to figure out if I could find something interesting to do before I went back to my hotel and caught the train back to Edinburgh at 10 AM.

Pretty standard stuff. I'm sure you've been there yourself.

Well, fortunately (although unfortunately for you, if you don't care for this blog entry) something did happen.

And, as is so often the case, it started with conversation with a female.

She was brunette and a bit plump, perhaps. But she dressed sort of provocatively (although, maybe from your perspective, "And she was dressed sort of sluttily") and I said something. Or she said something. Personal space was pleasantly and flirtateously invaded. And she invited me back to her place.

OK. Cool. There's a first time for everything, right?

...

So, yeah.

I said, "Why not?" to myself and then I said, "Why not?" to her. She turned to her  female friend and the guy who seemed to be with the other chick, grabbed my hand, and led us away from the bar.

Awesome. Nothing could ever go wrong, right? I'm a fucking AMERICAN, people! Nothing untoward could possibly happen.

We got into line, waiting for a cab, and both of the women were talking about how awesome my accent was and the Other Guy was sort of stewing in the background. I knew he wasn't pleased with the situation, and when Other Chick kissed me rather thoroughly in front of the First Chick and Other Guy, it was simultaneously thrilling and foreboding. She giggled and said something about me biting her lip.

I got into the cab with them. Whatever.

Now, there's something about me you need to know (other than that I'll kiss a perfect stranger in front of someone who very well might be her boyfriend, assuming I'm in a foreign country and have had enough to drink AND she kisses me first) ... I have a terrible sense of direction. Without GPS I am horrible with directions. With GPS I pass. But barely. I get an F+.

"Get lost for three hours after taking a wrong turn in the streets of Evanston on my first day of college"-horrible. "Wander the streets of Honolulu blindly and confusedly until the sun comes up"-horrible.

Horrible.

So when I got into the cab, setting aside any weird conversations that might have been happening (more on that in a moment) and setting aside the booze in my system: I didn't pay attention. And if I had paid attention it wouldn't have mattered.

After the cab ride of about 10 minutes (give or take five minutes) I had no idea where we were. Somewhere relatively close to Inverness but not IN Inverness. It was sort of a rural/suburban housing development-type situation. I didn't really think about how lost I was.

Part of the reason that I didn't think about it is because First Chick started arguing with me almost immediately once we got into the cab.

She asked me how old I was, and I told her. She was FLABBERGASTED that I was so old, and asserted that I had told her I was some 15 years younger than I, in fact, was.

After putting up with Original B in the bar, I really was in no mood to apologize or put up with any kind of crazy. So I pointedly told her she was wrong, that I'd never mentioned my age before, etc.

We got out of the cab and she was chirping at me the whole way. Other Guy and Other Chick got out, too, and we went to First Chick's house and within four or five minutes, she told me to get out.

Get out?

Of her house?

In the middle of not-Inverness, after the Taxi had left?

Yep.

So I shook my head (for the nine hundredth time that night, seemingly) and trudged out. I wished them all well and I went outside her house and contemplated what to do next.

I think I knew the first turn to make out of her driveway, but I wasn't sure. And my phone was at about 12% battery, so it wasn't going to be able to reliably get me back to the hotel. I had no idea how to call a taxi.

And I was NOT going to back to ask for help.

So I stood there. And after a minute she opened the door, came out, and apologized. She invited me back in.

OK. Great. But then she started complaining about how her boyfriend had just left her for a younger woman a week prior. I tried to be sympathetic, but I must have said the wrong thing because I was asked to get out AGAIN... literally within 10 minutes of being asked back in.

At this point, I looked over at Other Guy. I wanted a sanity check. I wanted some support. I wanted some empathy.

But then I remembered that I'd sorta made out with the chick he had his arm around, and I knew there would be no solace from that corner.

So, once again, I made my way outside confusedly. My phone was below 10%. And I was flustered. Not mad, but just ... befuddled. Flummoxed. Other synonyms.

Guess what happened then?

Go on. Guess.

She came out AGAIN. Invited me in AGAIN.

It was the weirdest thing. Or the second-weirdest.

The weirdest? What happened next is the weirdest.

I came back in. Other Guy and Other Girl had gone into another room, probably to have schadenfreude sex, and I almost IMMEDIATELY kicked a kid's toy that was by a couch.

First Chick did not like this. First Chick was convinced I had kicked a poor kid's toy because I was angry or a bad person or whatever. I actually had kicked it because I didn't see it and the room was a fucking pigsty.

I deigned to apologize, but I basically knew what was coming. I was booted again.

And this time? There was no invitation to re-enter.

It was 4:55 in the AM and I was lost and my phone was dying and I had to get back to catch my train at 10:00. And I really had to pee.

Somehow, some way, I made my way back. I checked Google Maps every so often. I dramatically restricted my picture taking... which is tough, because it felt like I was wandering through the Shire.


But I eventually made it to the outskirts of the city. And then to the street I needed. And finally to my hotel and my bed.

I packed my stuff, made sure the front desk would give me a wakeup call, and fell asleep at around 8:00. Plenty of time to get an hour of sleep AND catch my train. Just like I'd planned.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Scotland: Day 4 Part I

(Quick note: I took a trip to Scotland in April, 2014. After spending an amazingly long time not writing about it, and forgetting which friends I'd told which stories to, I decided to post my experiences over the next few days. I am not back-dating these entries, but know that they occurred last year and that I am not writing intentionally with the benefit of eight months of hindsight.)


Day four, Sunday, started off with a massive bit of sleeping. I rolled out of my hotel room around 2:00, got food (from McDonald's... that's authentic Scottish cuisine, right?), and wandered the Earth. Or at least I walked around for a few hours.

I visited another cemetery. I saw a weird store that seemed to have American junk food as its focus. I had a delicious dinner with a waiter who was utterly incapable of working my autofocusing cameraphone.



And when I was done wandering: I had absolutely no idea what to do next.

The previous three nights had been rather structured, with the serendipitous karaoke bar and then back-to-back nights of amazing-music-I-love awesomeness.

But there I was, around 8:00 with only "go out drinking" as my plan. And it was Saturday night.

What could I do? I had to go out drinking.

I went to several bars (way more bars than I would have guessed a 72,000 person town would have had). I think that I ended up going to about six bars/clubs that night. It was nuts.

One was a great mix of men and women, gender-wise, but it had the strangest age distribution I've ever seen. Specifically, it was young women and old men. As an old man and a fan of young women, I am generally in favor of this, but I think I need to use italics to say they were old men. It was so odd that I feel compelled to create this ultra-scientific chart to communicate the reality:



It was, perhaps, the most alien I felt on my whole trip. Not only were they all speaking with heavy accents, and not only were they dressed like they last shopped in 2003... semi-serious American metropolitan snobbery aside, the age distribution just blew my mind. Old guys being flirted with by women half their age. It might happen in Seattle, too (and, in fact, I wouldn't mind being there when it did!), but in its totality the scene was very odd.

It might have been that, for once on my trip, I was more sober than everyone else. I was playing catch-up, but we're talking "Someone call an ambulance, Earl fell down the stairs and cracked his head open"-level of drunk. I took the arrival of the paramedics as a good time for me to leave.

A couple of bars later, I went to one that  had the best jukebox I've ever seen. Not that I've seen THAT many jukeboxes, but this one will be tough to beat by any ones I see in the future. I think it was, like, connected to the Internet or something and it had songs I'd never seen on a jukebox before. I actually ended up txting a couple of friends about it that night, which shows you how oddly excited I was.

I also, not surprisingly given the intimate nature of Inverness, saw a couple of the same people I'd seen at the OMYW ("Old men, young women") bar... by this time, I'd had enough booze to be more conversational and, shockingly, the women had transformed into more attractive creatures.

Also not surprisingly, I said something wrong--or did something wrong, or something--when I approached a pair of ladies from the OMYW place. I received the coldest shoulder I received the entire time I was in Scotland. After determining, internally, that I was a couple of decades too young for their tastes, I finished my drink and went to the next place.

The next place turned out to be a club that was simultaneously the most empty and most discotech-like I've ever entered.

As I sat in a booth, talking to two kind but plain women, I sipped on another couple of drinks and marveled at the lights in the floor and how the place was still open in spite of being almost entirely empty. It was a Sunday night/Monday morning, but the place had a fog machine up and running! It was kind of amazing, but I needed to keep on moving.


Eventually, after another stop or two, I settled in a bar that was right around the corner from my hotel... to be fair, everything was pretty close to my hotel.

This place was odd. It was odd in at least two ways:

  • It had two distinct wings. I don't know if they had two buildings that they simply merged by knocking a wall down or what, but two distinct bar areas existed, and there were few places where you could move (or even see) between the two spaces.
  • I got cut off.
I have, or, rather had, never EVER been cut off by a bartender. I've almost certainly deserved to be, but I never had been.

We need a map. Each number on the map corresponds with part of my little story, below.

When I approached a bartender in the "left" wing of the bar for a (presumably last for the evening) drink, she did the unthinkable: she said no. (See: location 1 on the map.)

Now, granted: I should be used to hearing "no" from women. The monosyllabic expression is so omnipresent in my life that I often liken it to a throbbing social tinnitus.

"No, I don't want to go out with you again"? OK.
"No, I prefer not to watch more Tim & Eric"? Fine.
"No, I won't invite her to join us in bed"? Understandable.

But "No, I won't serve you more alcohol"?

That just confuses me. The words all make sense individually, but strung together, they are gibberish. "No, orange DVD air or ponytail" would have resonated with me at the same level.

After I parsed out her meaning, which I'll admit is rather straightforward on the surface, even accounting for her funny-talking ways, I think I strung together a series of statements and queries that ranged from, "What?" to "Why?" and "Huh?" and "Are you kidding? I'm not even that drunk..."

But she would not be swayed.

So I shook my head in disappointment (in her, as a human, even more than in my lack of more alcohol) but I didn't give up.

Her bar was an island. Not emotionally, as far as I could tell, but a bar surrounded by potential patrons. So I simply walked to the other side of the island and ordered from another bartender. (Location 2.)

Or a tried to.

Instead, Original B saw my efforts and cut across the area and told me I couldn't have a drink.

It still didn't make sense to me, but I was starting to get a bit peeved.

I performed a tactical retreat, though, and moved to the other wing of the establishment. I wandered to the right wing and, upon entering, stood there, waiting to order. (Location 3.)

30 seconds later, a bouncer tapped me on the shoulder and said that I wasn't supposed to have more. I must have made an "Are you shitting me?" face because he shrugged and pointed back to the other wing, where Original B had a DIRECT line of sight to where I was standing (one of the only connectors between the two wings) and I shook my head. Defeated.

Seemingly.

I slumped my shoulders and walked down the bar, towards the exit in the right wing. I slowed. I looked around for Original B and the bouncer. They were nowhere to be found. So I ordered another drink. (Location 4.) And tipped the SHIT out of the bartender that served me.

Success!

As the semi-foul liquid slid down my throat strange thoughts popped into my head (am I right, ladies?)... did I just want to drink the alcohol? Or did I want more?

Obviously, I want more. Because I will never get my comeuppance.

So I downed about 80% of it and walked back up along the bar, turning left towards the Original B's bar.

I spied her and I put a big smile on my face and I finished my drink. And I slammed the glass down in front of her immediately after. (Location 5.)

At that point, I moved REALLY quickly to get the fuck out of the bar. I don't know if she was rolling her eyes or sputtering indignantly or lighting up the "kick the American's ass" bat-signal, but I wasn't gonna wait around to find out.

I made it outside (location 6) without incident. I was not tackled. No one threw anything at me. I did not fall down (see? Not that drunk!). I escaped.

But I didn't keep walking to my hotel room. It might have been three o'clock in the morning, but I had about seven hours before I had to catch my train back to Edinburgh, and I wanted to see if Inverness had more adventure for me.

And it did.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Scotland: Day 3

(Quick note: I took a trip to Scotland in April, 2014. After spending an amazingly long time not writing about it, and forgetting which friends I'd told which stories to, I decided to post my experiences over the next few days. I am not back-dating these entries, but know that they occurred last year and that I am not writing intentionally with the benefit of eight months of hindsight.)

Day 2 ended with much rum and the company of two very nice Scots. But not much sleep.

In spite of my lack of rest, I had a plan. To wit:
Thursday: arrive in Edinburgh. Nap. Go out drinking.
Friday: wander the neighborhood. Nap. Show starts at 7:30.
Saturday: train to Inverness. Show starts around 9:00.
Sunday: wander the neighborhood. Nap. Go out drinking.
Monday: train to Edinburgh. Wander the neighborhood. Nap. Go out drinking.
Tuesday: wander the neighborhood. Nap. Go out drinking.
Wednesday: fly back to Seattle.
It was Saturday at this point.

Inverness is a town about 150 miles north of Edinburgh. It's got a population of a bit over 72,000 and it's near Loch Ness. And it has a bar called Hootananny/Mad Hatters that was going to be featuring Dropkick that night.

I somehow managed to get up, get packed, and check out of the hotel without incident. The train ride (in spite of cramped seating due to some dude who kept bumping knees with me) was amazing. It went through the Cairngorms National Park and I felt like I was really experiencing the highlands. Or at least speeding through them. It was fantastic.

I got to the train station in Inverness and it was a short walk to my hotel room. The hotel wasn't quite as nice as the one I'd been in Edinburgh, but it didn't have funny red strings that confused me, and it was just as walkable to things that I wanted to get to.

Fortunately I had time for a quick nap, and then I met the guys for dinner. I had haggis again (it was served differently than I'd had it the first night, but still delicious).

Most importantly, I got to talk to the guys. They were kind and quirky and I had a great time... I think that I got to talk more about Teenage Fanclub over that meal than I had in the past five years.

After dinner they invited me to hang out for sound check and I accepted delightedly so we moved outside to their cars, where they had their instruments and amps and such. As we began our schlepping (I was happily helping carry their stuff!), a couple waddled towards us on the sidewalk.

(Maybe it wasn't a waddle... perhaps it was a stagger. Or somewhere in between. In any event, they appeared to have had more to drink by 7:00 than they should have.) Our conversation went something like this:

Woman: Are you guys in a band?
Dropkick #1: Yes we are.
Woman: Oh, yeah? What's the band?
Dropkick #1: Dropkick.
Woman: ... hmm. What kind of music do you play?
Me: Alt-country power pop!
Woman: ... ?
Me: Well, they're a little like Teenage Fanclub or Wilco.
Woman: ... ?
Me: Influenced by Big Star, I think.
Woman: ... ?
Me: C'mon. Alex Chilton? Chris Bell?
Dropkick #2: Ed, you are evil.
Woman: ... ?
Dropkick #1: We sound a little like the Beatles.
Woman: Ah. Ok.
I was not helpful... but it was fun.

Sound check was fun. I got to talk to them as they got all set up and then, as people started arriving and the opening act took the stage, we went across the street to a teeny tiny bar and they bought me a nice Scotch.

The show was fantastic. More people than the night before and no one complaining about me being too loud.

After the show the space sort of converted to a dance club and we spent more time hanging out and talking and people watching.

Around 3:30, I walked the two blocks back to my hotel and collapsed in my bed, exhausted but happy.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Scotland: Day 2

(Quick note: I took a trip to Scotland in April, 2014. After spending an amazingly long time not writing about it, and forgetting which friends I'd told which stories to, I decided to post my experiences over the next few days. I am not back-dating these entries, but know that they occurred last year and that I am not writing intentionally with the benefit of eight months of hindsight.)

OK. I was safely in Edinburgh. I had made it through a day and a night without significant dental damage (that was to come later).

And, after about 11 hours of sleep, I was pretty well-rested.

My whole plan, to remind you, for the trip looked like this:
Thursday: arrive in Edinburgh. Nap. Go out drinking.
Friday: wander the neighborhood. Nap. Show starts at 7:30.
Saturday: train to Inverness. Show starts around 9:00.
Sunday: wander the neighborhood. Nap. Go out drinking.
Monday: train to Edinburgh. Wander the neighborhood. Nap. Go out drinking.
Tuesday: wander the neighborhood. Nap. Go out drinking.
Wednesday: fly back to Seattle.
It was Friday.

I rolled out of bed. Showered and groomed and might have watched people who talked funny on the TV for a hot minute. Then I grabbed my camera and started walking.

The weather was glorious. The streets were gorgeous. It was hilly and there were castles and castle-like things and a badass cemetery.

This was all wonderful, but I was particular excited about the show at Sneaky Pete's that night. I knew it was a small venue, and I knew that I would finally get to see Dropkick in person after years of having their music on repeat.

I walked the two or three blocks from the hotel to the bar and in spite of my best directional-awareness-challenged efforts, I managed to make it. I opened the door and stepped in.

The dude taking the money at the door? The lead singer. Even as one who's not a fan of celebrity, I recognized him and went to hand him the entry fee... I said hello and he must have recognized my accent or something because he asked if I was Ed. For once in my life, I admitted who I was and he gave me a big smile, wouldn't take my money, and called the other guys over as I entered the bar itself.

The bass player bought me a drink. The drummer shook my hand. It was so cool. Surreal. Super-fun.

They eventually went on after the opening act and it was fantastic. They sounded crisp and just as I'd hoped they would.

Somehow, I managed to start talking to a woman during the show (I don't know how or why... it just happens sometimes) and the band was playing to a less-than-full room that was about 30 feet wide or so, and ... I guess I was talking to the woman (who was from Canada and had come out to the bar randomly, rather than with great purpose as I had) too loudly because another chick from the other side of the bar (while the band was playing, mind you) came over and told me to stop talking so loudly.

I was speechless.

Me being speechless is uncommon. I'm often quiet, but that's usually because I choose not to say what I'm thinking. And even when I don't have something to say it's usually more from insouciance than an inability to craft sentences.

But this time? I was speechless.

I had gotten up really early two days previously. I had come thousands of miles. I had planned a whole trip to see the band. I was enjoying their music as they played about fifteen feet in front of me.

And some woman is telling me to be quiet?

I guess if I had to utter something, in retrospect, it would have been to fuck off.

Instead I think my jaw dropped and I looked at the Canadian chick in confusion. We shrugged and laughed and I got another drink and tried to be more quiet.

The show was good. It ended. And the guys from the band were apologizing that they couldn't go out with me after because they had two shows the next day and a fair bit of traveling. Those apologies struck me as a bit ridiculous--who was I? I was just some guy from Seattle... they were a band that I adored!--but it was very kind and meant a lot to me that they did it. We agreed to hook up before their show the next night in Inverness and I asked them which bar I should go to and I bid them a temporary adieu.

I took their advice and wandered over to the next bar/club/thingamabobber.

The first person I saw in the place? The woman who'd chastised me for being too loud. "Hey," I thought, "here's a chance for me to show her that I came all this way to see a band that I love..." so I approached her and the conversation went along these lines:
Me: Hey! You were at the Dropkick show, right?
Cunt: Yes I was.
Me: You told me to be quiet during the set, remember?
Cunt: Yes.
Me: Yeah, so I came all the way from Seattle to see them. I might be their biggest fan in the US. Maybe in the world.
Cunt: I guess you should have been quiet then, huh?
She was two for two with regards to rendering me speechless. If she would have been at all attractive, I might have fallen in love right then and there.

The rest of the bar was less vexing, but it still had a few oddities. These included:

  • Opening a bar tab was almost impossible. It was very odd, but they had to get the manager to help me. They took my credit card, and then every time I ordered something they'd have to call the manager over and do something or other with it. It was very very strange. Then, to top it off, there was no line to give a tip on the final tab. And I had precious little cash to give them. I'm sure they hated my ugly American ass.
  • There was an internal fogginess that made the most confusing bathroom entrance that I've ever seen. I am glad that I had not had too much booze or I might have ended up giving up looking and just peed on the floor. Probably not, but that would have made a much more interesting story.

The walk back to the hotel was an interesting one. I started back and somehow got integrated into a group of people. And this group included a cute redhead.

How is a drunk me supposed to resist a cute redhead in Scotland? Answer: he's not. Or I'm not. Whatever.

The group was sort of like a snowball rolling downhill when there's no snow on the ground... it got smaller and smaller as we walked, and all of the people who left were dudes, so it was the best kind of attrition.

At some point there were five of us walking: the cute redhead, her buddy, and a couple that were also not from Scotland.

Thanks to my sharp planning, I had a fair bit of rum in my hotel room, so we all wandered back to my room to drink. I don't remember exactly what we talked about, but it was revealed that the foreign couple was from Finland. Or Denmark. Or somewhere. As I noted, I don't remember exactly.

We drank. The Finns/Danes/whatever left. After more conversation and rum we all fell asleep (pretty much) and my second day in Scotland was a tremendous success.

Obviously I could keep drinking as much as I wanted in a foreign country with no negative consequences. I would never get my comeuppance. Guaranteed.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Scotland: Day 2 Prelude

Scotland? Why Scotland?

I hadn't, truth be told, been planning a trip to Scotland for years and years. Other than Australia, I'd never left North America, and I wanted to go somewhere with interesting history and a fair number of English speakers (since my Spanish is so rusty and I prefer to be mocked in my own language).

The thing is, there are a fair number of countries that fit the bill. But why Scotland? And why in April of 2014?

Because of music.

I have a whole deal about my relationship with music that involves my parents, lack of cable television, and lots of other stuff, but that's potentially even more boring than my normal entries so I'll say this: my favorite two bands in the world are from Scotland.

I've been a Teenage Fanclub fan for over 20 years and I've seen them a few times when they've come to the US. The band never got HUGE, but they did (and are doing) pretty well for themselves.

I've been a Dropkick fan for about five years. For whatever reason, they have never achieved the (relatively) lofty heights of Teenage Fanclub. They tour Scotland and Spain occasionally, but haven't made it to the USA.

A few years ago I purchased one of their CDs online, and I got a personal email back from one of the members. I asked when they were coming to Seattle and he said if I bought them tickets and gave them a place to crash they'd be happy to.

In early March I was sitting on my couch, watching my dog run around and taking a break from watching porn when I saw that Dropkick was going to be doing a mini-tour in Scotland to support their latest album.

In spite of the fact that it was only about a month out, I started to formulate a plan to head to Scotland and see them. I recalled that I had an email address of a band member and sent him a missive, asking a few questions. He generously (and promptly!) replied, recommended which venues I should check out, and some of the sights I should see.

Buoyed by this response, I started to make my plans. Scotland it would be.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Scotland: Night 1

(Quick note: I took a trip to Scotland in April, 2014. After spending an amazingly long time not writing about it, and forgetting which friends I'd told which stories to, I decided to post my experiences over the next few days. I am not back-dating these entries, but know that they occurred last year and that I am not writing intentionally with the benefit of eight months of hindsight.)

(Previously: I planned, I flew to Scotland, I pooped, I napped.)

I woke up after a three hour nap and felt pretty good. I had managed to evade Interpol, the weather was gorgeous, and I'd only needed to ask four people to repeat themselves so far. Things were going well.

I showered and headed out for food. Specifically, for haggis.


Haggis is, according to Wikipedia, "a savoury pudding containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal's stomach and simmered for approximately three hours".

Even understanding that a lot of modern haggis uses sausage casings, rather than sheep stomach, it's still not very appetizing on paper. If you know that "suet" is fat, it gets even a little less appetizing.

But I was in Scotland and I needed to try it.

I settled into a restaurant and ordered haggis, tatties and neeps. "Tatties" are mashed potatoes and "neeps" are mashed turnips. I added a hard cider and some whiskey gravy and... it was good. I liked it a lot.

The table next to me was occupied by a pair of young women who had North American accents and at some point (as I was finishing off my hard cider, probably) I talked to them a bit. They had their noses buried in their smart phones, but I learned that they were Canadian and they told me about a club they'd been to on Tuesday, and that it had been really busy. I tucked that away and it would come into play about five nights later.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I finished my food. I started chewing gum (one of six packs that I brought on my trip) and walked to the Three Sisters Pub, which my cab driver had recommended.

It was a short walk, and I was greeted by one of the most glorious phrases in all the English language: "Karaoke tonight". OK, it actually "Karaoke Thursdays", but given it was Thursday, it was effectively "Karaoke tonight". And I was pleased.

I opened a tab (which, as it would later turn out, was a bigger deal than it seemed). I drank. I sang a few songs. And I watched and met some people.

The first batch of people I noticed was a group of three guys. They looked like the kind of guys I would imagine if someone were to start a story with the phrase, "Three Scottish guys walk into a bar, looking for a fight..."

As someone who is quite cognizant both of his inability to fight and his penchant for doing things that piss some guys off (including, but not limited to, dressing differently and using "penchant" correctly in a sentence), I intuitively knew to stay out of the way of these fellows.

I hugged the wall. I didn't get into their line of sight (other than, I suppose, when I was singing).

But I did observe them.

After ordering beer, they staggered over to a spot on the fringe of the crowd and they had their heads on a collective swivel--looking for trouble.

Eventually, they found targets. Some guys were playing billiards with some women friends, and our ne'er-do-wells were hovering just out of range of the pool cue reach and kept edging closer and closer. There was one hothead in the pool-playing group that was on the verge of doing something about the space invasion but common sense blessedly prevailed and pool play ceased. The bullies retreated to another part of the bar and I saw them no more.

As sort of thrilling it was to see some of the native fauna in its natural pub habitat, I was more interested in talking to women (that tends to be true in almost every circumstance... unless I need my car fixed or I want help with arithmetic).

(Note: I don't own a car. And I never need help with arithmetic.)

There was a group of women who were there and I got to talk to them a bit.

We drank. I lightly complimented. We discussed the upcoming Scottish independence vote. I was reminded that women could legally be in bars at the age of 18. (Actually, I think that 16 year-olds can be drinking some alcohol if they're eating food... although I didn't experience that first-hand. Or at least I hope not.)

I walked them back to their hotel. I had a rather subdued mini-makeout with one of the cute ones on the sidewalk outside. I wandered back to my hotel for sleep. Blessed sleep.I walked them back to their hotel. I had a rather subdued mini-makeout with one of the cute ones on the sidewalk outside. I wandered back to my hotel for sleep. Blessed sleep.