Most of this post including the Oban story was written on the train ride from Glasgow to London on 9/26.
It’s been a wee few weeks since I’ve posted anything.
Scotland is an incredible country if not somewhat conflicted: wet and rainy with a dry humor; elegant English manners and filthy drunk mouths. They light up when you join in for a wee drink and a few four letter words. They are the home of both golf and single malt whisky, yet they don’t drink on the golf course. They’ve been calling for independence for years, yet they seem to rely on England and the United Kingdom more than they realize. It’s also a great literary country, home to writers like Robert Louis Stephenson (Jekyll and Hyde) and the location where JK Rowling famously scribbled Harry Potter on napkins.
It has been one of my favo(u)rite countries so far no doubt, and for that, I’ll share a story.
I’m writing to you from somewhere between Glasgow and London. That is to say, I’m somewhere in the UK. I’ve watched this video at least 10 times and I’m still confused as to what the hell Scotland is. Wikipedia says it’s a “country within a country” – which means that Scotland is a country and so is the United Kingdom. Plato the Greek bartender in Oban insisted that the United Kingdom is not a country. I asked him what it was and he replied that it’s a “sovereign state.” I shared with him that in my opinion, a sovereign state is synonymous with nation is synonymous with country. A Chicoguan couple a few seats down the bar agreed.
When I say that the couple agreed, I mean to say that the woman – whose name none of us ever seem to recall in conversation despite the fact that she forced her card upon us after forcing massages on my friend Nicholas – agreed. Her husband, Randy, generally stewed in silence. There was a growing, palpable rage emanating from Randy as his wife thrust her hands onto Nick, who was becoming visibly uncomfortable yet somatically relaxed. By the time she asked him to lay down on the floor of the bar, he excused himself for a wee fag.
I met Nicholas while alighting the train in Oban where I had traveled from Edinburgh. Brendan had departed on Monday after our golf excursion and so I decided – on the advice of a man I’d met in Edinburgh – to head for this sleepy fisherman’s town in the western highlands. It was raining in Edinburgh (shocker), and I had already been there for a few days, so I Followed the Sun to Oban. Actually, there was rain forecasted there as well, but hell, it’s Scotland.
Thanks to Angelica for introducing me to this tune in Costa Rica, as it’s followed me along my travels and treated me well.
All I really knew about the town was that it had the best seafood in the country, er, in Scotland, that it was out of the city, and that there was a famous whisky distillery. The food in Scotland is mostly rubbish (see Haggis – although Black Pudding is delicious), I had been city slicking for a few stops in a row and could use some relief in nature, and I hadn’t yet tasted the good single malt whisky that Americans refer to as Scaahhhhtch. It seemed like a no brainer to make the Oban trip. To top it off, everyone raved about the train ride and its scenic views through the green Scottish hills, firths, and lochs.
By the time Nicholas and I found ourselves at the Whisky Cellar on our second afternoon in Oban, strangers were assuming that the two of us had been old friends for years. Somewhere into our second whisky, Plato the Greek bartender asked us how we had met. We all had a hearty laugh at the absurdity of asking a stranger for directions to the Old Church, which is what I asked Nicholas as we got off of the train in Oban.
It took two hours after meeting Nicholas to find out that he was a surgical resident and uses Epic. It took me two days to find out that he was what the dutch call a persnidinest (sp?) or a circumseesee and what the Jews call a moyle. That’s right, boys and girls, Dr. Slater cuts the wee foreskin off of little wee wees. This led into a night of laughter that flowed like the Firth of the River Forth.
September 22 – Oban, Scotland
Today, we road the ferry to Kererra Island and mountain biked the trail around the island to a cafe. “Go right at the first fork, yeah, go right and pretty much take every left after that.” Those were the instructions that I remembered the bike woman, Zoe, telling us. Zoe was laid back and natural, as a bike lady should be. Of course, we took many wrong turns, including one that led us down a manure filled, cow filled private property where we were harrassed by a woman with a blend of a Scottish and New York accent – mostly New York. I recognize that pronunciation of man-ooah anywhere.
I promise more posts soon, including anecdotes, pictures, videos, bad jokes, and pop culture references that I’m ripe to unload since they’re often lost on my foreign travel companions. My dutch friend Nicholas hadn’t heard of Paul Rudd (although he did believe – with increasing certainty after a few whiskies – that Owen Wilson had “topped himself”.) In this context, topping himself does not mean that he finally came out with a funnier film than You, Me, and Dupree – because honestly, how is that possible? “Who the fuck is Yoomee Dupree?” quothed our Greek bartender and whisky connoisseur. Case in point. I was, however, impressed by Owen Wilson’s global relevance.
Side note: I almost topped myself on this train ride due to this group of Scottish Jersey Shore wannabes who sexually harassed me and drove the entire train bonkers.
When I really get my act together, I’ll post a few focused essays that I mentioned in my opening post. On Communication, On the Farm, On Intentional Communities, On Trains and Planes, On Fear, On Drinking the Water, On Sharting, etc. Hopefully they will be less rambling than these kinds of posts. Trust that these thoughtful posts are already in the works, both in my journal and in my mind. They do, however, require some real reflection and a wee bit of focus.
^Keep telling yourself that, Drew.
Oh yeah, and me and Brendan payed some golf at St. Andrews and North Berwick (pronounced Berr – Ick with a rolling Scottish R). Highlights: we both parred number 1 at the beautiful North Berwick, a championship quality beach side traditional links course where they treated us like members for the day. The employees of St. Andrews, on the other hand, acted as if they had 7-irons wedged up their asses, but that’s another story. Brendan also eagled number 9. In typical fashion, I became fatigued on the back 9 and triple bogeyed two holes in a row en route to a respectable 93. Brendan stayed strong for a solid 85.
Cheers for now, mates.