June 27, 2013

Short arms and deep pockets.

Like many Scotsmen, or perhaps it's just chaps in general, Alistair doesn't see the point in getting new things when he already has a whatever-it-is that is perfectly serviceable. Sound reasoning. 

So when we found ourselves standing on the dock waiting for the ferry to Iona, it was the coldest November on record full of the slate-grey stair-rod rain which usually welcomes folk to Scotland,  Alistair squelched off and reappeared in a second-hand full-length Driza-Bone, towering above the crowds like a jackaroo in exile.  He was giddy with the thrill of purchase.  "It's an amazing coat, look these straps go round your legs for riding and if it snows it just slides off this cape thingy.  And the best thing…" he fished about in the ridiculously huge pocket.  Out came a half-bottle of peaty, okay Oban single malt, whose smoky scent will forever take me back to that squally day of tilting ferry, ferrous skies and above all, the kind of easy rolling laughter that dances on the edge of everything when you are happy and let loose on a bottle of whisky early in the morning.

Alistair’s phone dates from the last century, just.  He has tried to teach us to be proud of sentiment and frugality.  So, a tape keeps the battery in place and he never gets a signal anywhere.  It has almost a decade's worth of photos on it and every morning he clicks the noisy buttons to read the newspapers online.  He says, "This is all I need, look at this, I'm reading newspapers across the world from bed.” 

This week, after a long trip, in Edinburgh, in a taxi, the phone fell out of a hole which had inexplicably appeared in “The Coat” pocket.  It was returned, hurrah for honest cab drivers, to Alistair, but had been sat on by a passenger and may be beyond repair. He is inconsolable.  I've just put a bottle of Oban on order.

safe weekend  00

June 20, 2013


… has long been a time when myth and reality converge, when deities dance in woodlands and fiery festivities mark the advent of Midsummer’s Day.  Primarily a European tradition, different countries have their own unique and often colorful take on this festival.


On nights like this we used to swim in the quarry,  
the boys making up games requiring them to tear off the girls’ clothes  
and the girls cooperating, because they had new bodies since last summer
and they wanted to exhibit them, the brave ones  
leaping off the high rocksbodies crowding the water…


The summer night glowed; in the field, fireflies were glinting.
And for those who understood such things, the stars were sending messages:  
You will leave the village where you were born  
and in another country you’ll become very rich, very powerful,
but always you will mourn something you left behind, even though   
you can’t say what it was, and eventually you will return to seek it.

~Louise Glück


Nun die Sonne soll vollenden
Ihre längste, schönste Bahn,
Wie sie zögert, sich zu wenden
Nach dem stillen Ozean!
Ihrer Göttin Jugendneige
Fühlt die ahnende Natur,
Und mir dünkt, bedeutsam schweige
Rings die abendliche Flur.

Nur die Wachtel, die sonst immer
Frühe schmälend weckt den Tag,
Schlägt dem überwachten Schimmer
Jetzt noch einen Weckeschlag;
…Und die Lerche steigt im Singen
Hochauf aus dem duft´gen Tal,
Einen Blick noch zu erschwingen
In den schon versunknen Strahl.”

~Ludwig Uhland, Sonnenwende

               ✗✗✗✗❣ 0*-)

June 17, 2013


Miami International has always been one of my favorite airports.  First encountered on those faraway trips so many years ago to The Keys or Turks and Caicos.  It was the port of call before catching a seaplane or boat to places beyond.  As the doors of the plane opened the wet scented Florida air rushed into the cabin and welcomed you.  

Inside the terminal, the smell of damp carpet was the eau de toilette that followed you around.  Rivers of delicious-smelling green carpet guided the traveller past gates to destinations that I had only dreamt of, or read about, in the pages of Graham Greene and Ian Fleming. Port-au-Price. Port-of-Spain. Caracas. Montevideo. Sao Paolo.  Miami International was, and is, a traveller’s candy shop and seeing the names of all these places made my heart miss a beat.  I wanted to know them all.

The first brush with exiled Cuba is at the airport.  They have their finger in every pie and it's hardly a secret that the best ones are sold in La Carreta.  Notice that in Miami you always will be second and always remain a gringo. Have a café con leche and get used to both.  

Alas, this trip I missed my connecting flight so I decided to stay overnight at the lofty airport hotel.  It is there, and convenient.  'Nuf said. No scrumptious 'munchie boxes' in the mini bar (ahh to be in London!).  At the restaurant, with panoramic view of the airport, South American cut-throats huddled around tables (Gold Shipment Vanishes in Mysterious Miami Airport Heist - ABC News May 16, 2013. A $625,000 gold shipment vanished early Tuesday in a brazen heist at Miami International Airport after it arrived aboard a jet from Ecuador, police said.) looking as if they had just made millions on a coke deal with Signor X.  Hmmmm… Planes roared through the sky in the background; tail lights blinking.  After a meal I wandered around the airport like a lost soul in purgatory. Gideon's angels were lurking politely.  “Have you been saved?” one of them wanted to know.  “Not yet,” I replied and moved on.  There were shrieks of reunion and waves of regret as travellers crashed in on the tide and were sucked out on the undertow.  The effect was magical, lonely, and very American. 

June 10, 2013

Our self-destructing little planet.

Maybe I have lived too long, but I observe a world in which...   

...extreme is now a fashion much like haute couture. We have extreme sports, extreme mental disorders (simple bipolar has a new higher level called radical bipolar), extreme measures (our judicial system and plastic surgery), extreme manicures (the Louboutin manicure is red coated on the under side of the nail with black on top). Not to mention the OPI nail polish company issuing a hilarious Slavic  theme of over the top color with titles like You're Such a Buda Pest purple and Eat my Keilbasa pink; extreme foods and of course extreme heels(now topping off at 9 inch platforms).

And here I thought my little old Extra Strength Tylenol was enough of a high-powered addiction.

But it's the bad behavior that has come along with this high octane epidemic that is disturbing. Benign upset has turned into high speed rage ... and not just regular road rage.

Recently I was followed by an angry exploding 400 pound gorilla in a car. When I got out of my car he started screaming (luckily in plain sight of an entirely peopled parking lot) profanity I never even heard of before (Extreme Cursing?).  It seems I cut him off 2 miles back. I was completely unaware and tried to apologize. But he didn't want to hear me as it was all about his in-my-face rant.

Years ago this used to be handled with a dirty look and a scoff. Now there are criminal high speed chases and verbal threatening throw-downs to get your point across. I was warned by my friendly neighborhood policeman not to upset anyone while driving because today drivers are packing heat. It would be nothing for anyone to roll down their window and ‘Glock’ you in the face for merely honking your horn.

Public lynchings and professional wrestling events were always crowd thrillers. But the popular temperature is rising. Now bigger is better is the lifestyle trend. But what life?  What style?   What are we enhancing?

We've come a long way babies. Now we have the weekly mall, theaters and school shootouts and mad bombers. Jailed Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has now become the latest sex symbol for many young girls. It's been reported that he is getting tons of sympathetic mail from these fanzines. Who are the parents of these girls? And who is doing his PR? They say he is beating OJ and the Menendez Brothers in Big House Hotness.

We have digital paper tigers with foul mouths; the more outrageous the more adored! Not admired for their accuracy or journalistic skills but rather for their flame-out postings. 

In our extreme world we refuse to honor moderation (forget aging). We can’t even die naturally. The medical industry has to cut you up and radiate you to the end.  Dying with dignity has become an extreme race with high desperate attempts at longevity and no real basic human awareness.

And let’s talk about the height of extreme fads: the Detox diets ... living on green drinks for 30 days and high colonics and breaking this fast with gluten free doughnuts. What is gluten free and how did that become such a universal medical issue.  Aren't we really just talking about food allergies? What is new there ... why start a whole grocery section devoted to this?  I can't open a bag of peanuts in a plane because someone might die of airborne nut fumes. Even yoga has gone off the charts with this new kind of high intensity hot yoga. Imagine doing classes in a room heated to 102 degrees with the intent to cleanse you of your toxins. You don't leave class cleansed you leave dehydrated and looking ravaged. So much for om-ing yourself into vitality. How high/low can we go?

And the worst?  Rudeness has become the latest in extreme competitive sports. Cursing at strangers, butting ahead in any line, stealing cabs from one another, making scenes over nothing in hotel lobbies and restaurants, indulged children having horrible public tantrums has all become acceptable. Nobody cares or even hears since we are all too busy talking so loudly and obnoxiously into our cell phones to no one that matters.

Everyone is screaming for attention. We have all slittered into our own private hell of extreme narcissism.  Trust me when I tell you that there is no customer service big enough to handle that cultural problem.

Nobody wants to settle for moderation as an alternative (cutting back? who? me?) It’s a hard sell and not sexy.  I wonder if we are beyond understanding balance. What does the new normal really mean in an amped up world of triple shot Lattes and quadruple layered eyelashes.

But one thing is for sure ... E x t r e m e  is no longer a remote happening ... it has arrived, on everyone's doorstep!

Where is the USS Enterprise?