Friday, September 22, 2006

Me vs. Scotland - Part #1

I went to Scotland with my friend Steve in March of 2005.  During my travels, I wrote shorthand journal entries in a notebook, which I later transcribed and turned into online journal entries.  I thought posting them here for the first time, accompanied by previously unreleased photographs, would make for a cool three-part article series.

As far as the title (“Me vs. Scotland”), I’m actually a pacifist by nature, whose mother is a professional Yoga teacher and whose dad is a hippy.  I just said the name halfheartedly in a joking manner, and it kind of stuck.  I also shot a nearly six-hour video of my trip under the same title, but the only way you’ll see that footage is if you bribe me with chilidogs and issues of The Fantastic Four.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - I awake with about five hours of sleep in my system. I know, matter of factly, once I step one foot out of bed the whole thing starts. I stay there, face down, for a little while. After showering and dressing, I go over a few things while waiting for Molly. Once she arrives, around 11:15PM, I drive us to Cincinnati Mills.

We catch the noon fish feeding at Outdoor World and have shrimp hibachi at A Fusion Cafe for lunch. After walking around the mall for an hour I head back home. Steve's car is already there, and after saying my goodbyes to the family. I gather my stuff and we're on our way. At his house he argues with his mom while I watch from the sidelines. One quick gas step, and we're out of Hamilton and on our way to the airport. Our representative informs us our scheduled flight is delayed, and puts us on an earlier flight. We have to rush, passing through security I almost made a crack about slumber parties but decided better. The plane is really small; I get an aisle seat and settle in for the long haul to New Jersey. I listen to Head Automatica and read the first few chapters of Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals. The rhythm of the music, and the first chapter of the book consisting heavily of the narrator picking up a sexy woman in a bar, both have me smiling. I accept the offer of a snack; it contains crackers, cheese spread, pepperoni slices, an apple, and a almond/caramel chocolate candy. It's not bad, and I wash it down with Seagram's Ginger Ale. As we get closer to our destination you can see all the lights, and the traffic below. We get a little restless, but eventually touch ground in Newark.

We stop at the restrooms once we get in the airport, then stop at a store where Steve gets a drink and an issue of Playboy magazine. We find our departure area, get seated, have a small snack, and before we know it we're loading onto our next flight. This plane, a 767, is much more spacious. Steve spits some freestyle raps and we goof around a bit out of restlessness until liftoff. Steve's out instantly, I grab my CD player, pop in The Rocket Summer, and start writing. I'm interrupted by my meal service; I get the beef lasagna, salad, dinner roll, brownie, and a second Ginger Ale. The food's average, and I drop some red sauce on my crotch for good measure. Continental provides on-flight entertainment; 20 radio stations (one the contained some outrageous Japanese ska), 10 video stations (I flip back and forth between Ray and the flight channel containing general updating info on the flight), and video games which I've yet to check out. I notice I relate a lot of my experiences through pop culture, for example: Newark airport with Garden State, the lasagna with the animated Garfield Christmas special, etc. It's kind of hard being on a plane and not thinking about Twilight Zone: The Movie and that goblin on the wing... classic. It's dark, I'm 38,000 miles off the ground, over the Atlantic Ocean, and listening to An Angle. A little later I put in the Lost In Translation soundtrack, close my eyes, and try to just relax. After mostly unsuccessfully attempting sleep, the sun is peeking back out, and I can see layers of clouds below us. Steve's awake, and they bring out fruit cups with grapefruit and pineapple pieces, and croissants with strawberry jam. We have some orange juice, Steve plays a little video chess, then we fill out a "landing card". I'm listening to Rilo Kiley, and for the first time in hours I can see masses of land. We're set to arrive in a half hour, which'll be roughly 8:30AM.

Thursday, March 10, 2005 - We arrived at Glasgow's airport. It was amazing viewing the scenery and landscape from the plane as we neared our landing. We had to go through security, etc. We met Steve's uncle Thomas, and the moment we stepped outside I was in awe. We squeezed everything into his tiny car and we were off. Riding on the left side of the road, the tawdry yellow license plates with bold black print, and other signs let me know I was in Europe. We hit the highway and I quietly marveled at structures, vehicles, and everything on the sides of the road.

We went to Steve's aunt's house, located snuggly in a neighborhood that strongly resembled Harry Potter's. She made us this massive breakfast; containing eggs, ham, two kinds of sausage, pancakes, beans, and toast with hot tea.

Afterwards we both took showers and changed out of our flight attire. We took a walk, stopping in two tiny local convenience stores.

We visited his other aunt's, in the house Steve grew up in. He gave me the "official" tour. We saw a fox behind a shed, I'd never seen one in the wild, it was brilliantly red. Next we went to the house of Steve's childhood friend Joseph. His mom wasn't dressed when she answered the door, and ran upstairs which reminded me of a particular scene in Sideways. Her son was working, but her daughter Angie joined us in the living room. They're an Italian family, and friendly. Angie, at the tender age of 17, is growing into the delicate age of womanhood. That distraction aside, no sleep was beginning to take a toll, and listening to Steve talk I was starting to feel like the perfect accessory. After staying for a while, we picked up Kieran, Steve's cousin, ands walked back home.

I went into Kathleen's room, Steve's other cousin, who's also growing into a young lady, complete with requisite body piercing. I got into her bed, accompanied by stuff animals and Harry Potter merchandise and took a nap. Got up and met the father of the household William, had some kind of pork chop stew for dinner, and watched the news with the family in the living room. Kieran took Steve and I on a walk around 8PM, to get some money, and then we went to Riley's, a pool/snooker bar. The walk was dark and windy, but I enjoyed observing my surroundings. Riley's was a lot of fun, we shot pool for almost 3 hours. I'm a beginner, but did better than I expected, and for the first time since arriving felt truly satisfied. We had fun, and Steve ordered himself a pitcher of beer (4 pints) that he drank. On the walk home he tried to jump a 5-foot gap, and wiped out in the middle of a road. I filmed the event, and laughed hysterically from the sidelines. Got back around 11PM, had a sandwich I made, some chips and candy. Made a handful of phone calls; friends, family, and Molly. I was online in Kieran's room, he and Steve both passed out, so now I'm in Kathleen's "princess" cot-like bed, listening to Rilo Kiley and writing in my notebook around 1:00AM.

Friday, March 11, 2005 - Got out of bed around 6:15AM, feeling strangely awake. When Steve's aunt and uncle left for work, it was up to us to get the two teens up for school. There wasn't much better to do, so we spent an hour or so watching bad music videos.

After they left for school, Steve made us a breakfast of sausage sandwiches and milk.

Killed a couple minutes in the back yard observing a pond, then went back indoors to straighten up the house. We couldn't figure out how to turn the shower on, it's some box contraption with buttons, resembling something out of The Jetsons. I ended up taking an unsatisfactory bath.

We locked up the house and walked into downtown Bellshill, complete with shops, restaurants, etc. galore. We went into a place to exchange money.

I got around 49£ (pounds) for $100.

Stopped in a bakery to get a soda, then made the walk back home.

The family's dog Hairy was extremely horny, and humped a pillow to my mild amusement.

Steve's childhood pal Joseph picked us up in his car. Joe took us first to this place resembling an American strip mall/flea market; complete with requisite dinnerware, luggage, book section, golf gear, and a cafe where they served various meat pies. We went for lunch next, and Joe "fancied" Pizza Hut.

This Pizza Hut was unique from my hometown's for a couple reasons; served more alcohol, had buffet, and served us pizza with corn on it!

Went to an amusement park/arcade to go bowling. I scored a 61 and 58, far from stellar but an enjoyable afternoon. Joe is a super cool guy – I really like him. He was really fun to chat with, and brought some positive energy. Got dropped off back home, Steve fell fast asleep for a nap, and I attempted to do likewise. Got up around 6:30PM or so and ate dinner; containing chicken, peas, carrots, corn, and potatoes. It was uncle William's 41st birthday, and he had over two quests. I was invited to join the family in the living room; they drank import beer and chatted, wanted me to drink whiskey and forced me to eat a little chocolate cake.

I went in to Kathleen's room to get some space; William came in and sat on the floor next to me. He gave me a little speech about relaxing, having fun, etc. I must come off a little distant, because he's always trying to accommodate me when I'm really actually fine. He asked me what I wanted from the trip, I discussed my interest in scenery and museums.

Sat in bed listening to The Rocket Summer's album Calendar Days, which is a CD that'll always cheer me up hands down which is a great feeling. Was convinced to take a shower before going out, did so, got dressed in sharp threads, and chilled until Joe came over around 9:30PM and ordered us a taxi. Joe, Steve, and I went to this supposed "hip hop" club The Edge. The bouncer knows Joe, but told him we couldn’t enter with our casual shoes on. Got a second taxi, and took a mad dash back. Steve's uncle Thomas hooked me up with a pair of brown leather kicks, and Joe's dad took us to his huge superstore (think Wal-Mart) where Steve got some new shoes, too. Got back to the club a little after 11:00PM, where we stayed until 2:45AM. Steve and Joe drank between themselves at least 35 vodka mix drinks, with Pepsi and orange juice. I rarely drink; in fact, I just did start drinking (wine) earlier this very year. I got a Smirrinof Ice that I made last all night. Felt slightly out of place in the packed club at first, until we found a relatively comfortable spot. Joe said girls would love my American accent. Met two girls who were interested in our foreigner label, and then another woman 25 or so, who put on my black frame glasses and grinded against me. Steve tried to mingle, dance a bit, etc. I mostly observed and bobbed to the loud music. There were a couple beautiful girls there, honestly, but none exceptionally my type. Took perhaps the longest piss of my life in the seedy restroom. Near the end I was chilling on this couch, and these two girls who were absolutely incredible dancers did a few wild routines practically on top of me. It reminded me of Kid 'N Play tearing it up in House Party. In the cold night air we chatted with people outside afterwards, I did a lot more talking, not that I wasn't confident inside, it was just so much harder communicating against the music. Ran into Joe's girlfriend Fiona and a friend in the street, he left with them as Steve and I caught a taxi. The guy had no idea how to get us here, which was kind of a pain. After changing, brushing my teeth, and putting The Rocket Summer back on, I sat writing on my bed about the day.

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