Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cotton Mountain

Dear Jimmy,

I confess shamefacedly that I heard "Calton Hill" as "Cotton Hill." Twas the altitude, I'm sure. Imagine my horror as I attempted to Google Cotton Hill and did not find the spectacular view of Edinburgh. In fact, I found a farm in South Carolina and a sheep herder in Australia. Not at all what I remembered. I know I grumbled and gasped my way up the miles (or so it seemed) of gentle slope. It wasn't that bad, really. It was shocking in a way, as it was such a gentle hill and yet we ended up being on top of the world. It was thrilling in so many ways. To be so high, to have climbed so high, was a great accomplishment. I know you're wondering what in the Scottish tat I'm talking about...but see, Jimmy, we in the Midwest don't walk anywhere. Ever. Certainly never up a hill. But it was beautiful and I wish I'd taken a photograph. I would defend the city from invaders up there, I swear I would.

And Oxford Bar...what a lovely place. I've had such a time of it I tell you! To mesh my vision with the reality. I think what made it work best for me was having Peter's dog under the table with his occasional snuffle.

Reminds me of when we were in the church and the minister (Canadian!) would mention God and you'd hear this low moan from across the aisle. I lost it, I tell you. I'm always a bit nervous in a church - always a bit afraid there will be a bolt of lightning (errant, I'm sure) and that will be that. Best not to even catch my eye in church as you'll then see my shoulders heaving and you'll think the Spirit has caught me (finally).

I've a funeral tomorrow - my Aunt Shirley passed away. Did you know my mother's name was LaVerne? No lie. LaVerne and Shirley from Milwaukee. Sounds like a sitcom. Oh wait. Anyhooo, I've spent the evening trying to find a suitable dress, shoes and hosiery to pay my respects. Although I'm sure Aunt Shirley (we called her June) would rather that my outfit actually fit so she'd forgive me wearing my "normal" attire.

So we soldier on watching those in the previous generation pass on to the Shotz Brewery in the sky. Actually, John and I are convinced our mothers live in our attic, smoking and drinking and complaining about our housekeeping. Perhaps Auntie June will join them and they'll put another pot of coffee on and empty the ashtrays in anticipation of her arrival.

I hope there will be a dog in the church tomorrow so my heaving shoulders will look like I'm hiding a laugh or that I've been caught by the Spirit.

All for now, more later.

Monday, September 19, 2011

These Days

Dear Jimmy,

Ah yes...the wonderful song y'all played for us. Who knew that young Mr. A even knew who Jackson Browne was/is. That, Jimmy, is why the internet rocks. Bless him for that. I'll always remember that three playing away. The problem with a jam is trying to find the three songs that you all know, but that wasn't really a problem for you, was it? You and John know a lot of 'em and they're good and fine and they made the band wives tap our toes or want to dance. Lovely, innit?

But we had our moment, me and you, didn't we? See, I don't sing, can't sing - Mr. Steimke told me (freshman year) that I completely could not sing. So I try to avoid it because he'd make that face. He's long dead, Jimmy, but I remember as though it were yesterday. But I love music and I love singing. So I sing funny and make people laugh. I sing as though I'm in the West Allis Community Theatre's production of Oklahoma - my voice can be big and loud ("as the wind comes sweeping down the plain..." [arm swoop]). I can fill the auditorium without using a microphone. My friend Mary - her maiden name is Rose - she makes me sing "Everthing's Coming Up Roses" like Ethel Merman did. It makes her laugh and that makes me happy. My voice is soft and quite thin - it used to be very high (first soprano but ciggies and rum have made me alto-to-high-tenor I think). No matter.

You made me happy when you agreed to sing "King of the Road." It makes me laugh to think of our goofy duet. Thank goodness you knew the words to the second verse as I dropped the ball. I wasn't taking the piss either when I tried my Proclaimer accent - mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery, donchaknow?

Along with all the beautiful memories I have of our lovely holiday, that one ranks right up there because I was able to be me. Goofy and off-key, but laughing and making other people laugh. It's just who I am. A woman of means by no means.

All for now, more later.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lang may yer lum reek!*

Dear Jimmy,

I thank you for your patience as I twiddle about and have not quite mentioned the Land of Your Birth, the blessed Scotland! It's easy for me to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and prattle on about things of import but lesser consequence. Where I falter is in the big things, the really important ones. I struggle to write about them. Bear with me as I try my best...

When people have asked me "how was your vacation?" or "how was England?" I have to pause and force myself to breathe. I tell them my vacation was wonderful, England was lovely, but Scotland was sublime. I tell them Scotland is the most beautiful place I've ever been to (and honey, I've been around). I tell them that the songs and poems and movies do not do it justice, because it's soul-crushingly beautiful. I tell them that you can feel like a microcosm because the land is big and green, filled with craggy cliffs and the sea is rough and cold. Or that you can feel the power of the sea shoot through your body and you feel invincible and somehow you know you've come home. I tell them that the people there are amazing - once you pass the invisible test, you become family and there's no better family to have. I tell them that the ONLY way to see Edinburgh is with a historian as there is more history is one city block than we have in thousands of miles in this land of Apple and Microsoft. I tell them the food is amazing - the fish is fresh-caught and has never been near a freezer, the cheese is divine and puts Wisconsin cheese to shame. I tell them they've never been to a family party until they've been to a Scottish family party where the wine flows and the music plays and everyone is smiling and laughing. I tell them that for the first time in decades (I've had almost five so that's a lot) I had no worries and did not miss where I live. I tell them our accommodations were first class and that I can never thank our hosts (that would be you, your lovely bride and your brogue-y son) enough or possibly repay the hospitality. I tell them I'm going back as soon as I can because although I saw a lot, I could not take in any more as my senses were full up.

As they listen to this enthusiastic diatribe of love for all things Scottish, their eyes glaze over a bit and they say one of two things:

1) I've always wanted to go to Ireland.
2) So, is it like Braveheart?

Yes, my darlings, it's a wee bit like Braveheart.

All for now, more later.

*May you live long and stay well.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Creation Dream

Dear Jimmy,

I know it's been a while since I wrote, but life interferes. School is about to start and the whole but-I-have-a-CAREER thing has days of exhausting intensity. Of course I'm preaching to the choir, aren't I?

I do have more to tell you about my trip (Further Adventures of a Broad Abroad), but then I remembered the tattooed Buddhist.

I met a man recently whom I shall call John. That's actually his name, so it works. He's very, very tall and extremely thin. He has a shaved head, a very long beard and lots of painful looking metal bits piercing his ears. He also has a body suit (not a leotard like the fashion of the 1970s...ah, the '70s!), but rather tattoos from his wrists to his ankles. I can only assume it's a full body suit since he was wearing clothing, but I took him at his word. Needless to say, he's a pretty intense (read: scary) looking guy. Although from Ohio (or Iowa or some other vowel-laden state) he's been living in various locations in Asia. He lived for many years in Indonesia and Viet Nam, but currently resides in India - since Asia is an "emerging market" we need lots of people to live over there to get it emerged.

So here's a fully tattooed, fiercely pierced dude sitting in my cubicle - I am paid to support our "field staff" and he's as far a-field as I've experienced. We do our work thing and one thing leads to another and the conversation twists and turns (you may recall my uncanny ability to divert a conversation to odd territories) and I discover that in addition to knowing more about motorcycles than just about anyone, he's also on a spiritual quest. Which, it turns out, has a lot to do with his living in Asia (Mohammed and the mountain and all that. Oh. Wait.).

Anyhooooooo, since I find spiritual quests fascinating (I personally haven't made the time in my busy knitting and cocktail schedule for my own quest, but I do find them interesting nonetheless) I proceed to (gently!) pepper him with questions. We find common topics to discuss (did I mention that my first husband was practically a shaman? No? Shame, as it's an interesting story. He's dull as dishwater, but the story has moments of interest). John, it turns out, is a man in pain. His wife left him several years ago and basically kidnapped their daughter. He misses his little girl so much and has been working very hard to find her (in Asia! where there a bajillion people! Poor dude!). In the meantime he's been meditating and hanging out with the Dalai Lama (as you do). Since I had done a paper on the Dalai Lama for school, I felt a complete kinship with John. I mean, golly, I read the Dalai Lama's book so I practically know him too! Free Tibet!

Moving on.

John gave me some suggested reading material (The Sacred Path of the Warrior, which I've started but must read slowly as it may just cause my soul to explode). So when he asked the question, "Why is this happening to me?" in reference to his missing daughter I attempted to offer him some comfort by responding, "It's a question that contains its own reply." Pretty profound, huh? Sure is. The kicker is it's not my line, it's a lyric from a Bruce Cockburn song - the same title as this missive. It's a great song and he's a great lyricist. I still feel pretty badly about it (my response, not Bruce Cockburn), a bit guilty actually. Here was someone who was hurting so badly and needed to know why the Universe was challenging him in such a terrible way, and I toss out a fortune cookie response.

I guess I'll just have to hope that John the Tattooed Buddhist will find the answer he needs while he's on his quest. I also hope that he and Bruce Cockburn forgive me.

All for now, more later.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Manchester Candidate

Dear Jimmy,

Did I tell you we were "involuntarily" upgraded on our return flight? While I was prepared to ask for one without asking (which is the best way), Kelly (as indicated on her badge) instantly picked up the phone and dialed a number. I thought perhaps we were going to be processed without the benefit of her actually speaking to us or even hauled away by security for looking suspicious, but she said the magic upgrade words, "No, they're lovely" and hung up the phone. She then informed us we were to be upgraded to Business Class (beds! better food! segregated bathrooms!) and said the cabin crew asked if we were "suitable" for BC. Hence the lovely comment. Bless her.

Business class allows you to use the coveted lounge at the airport which has an open bar and food. We sacrificed several last minute cigarettes to partake as one cannot have too many free Bacardi and Cokes. Technically one can, but for the purposes of this story...

Since it was an involuntary (although we'd have readily volunteered) upgrade, we did our best not to be annoying to the flight crew, since we didn't actually pay for the privilege. Actually you do, just very indirectly. Our row-mates did not feel the same need for a non-annoyance policy. We were seated in the center section of row 10, which is just behind the galley. The seats are arranged with a two-four-two pattern with an aisle between the twos and the four (barely wide enough for the food and drink cart, erm trolley. John chose the seat on the aisle which is good for him, but it means that in order for me to use the bathroom, I must climb over the bed of the gentlemen in row 11. It's a bit wonky.) The aisle seats face forward and the two center seats face rearward.

So I'm sitting cheek by jowl with Miss Manchester 1967. Note that this is an honorary title I bestowed on her and may not in actuality be her title. She may have been first runner-up.

Miss Manchester 1967 and her spouse were not completely used to flying much less flying BC. Bless them, but golly. She spent far too much time removing items from her handbag to stow in the little drawer and then changing her mind about which items would be stored in the handbag versus the drawer. This caused her spouse to not be seated when the plane began its taxi to prepare for take-off and he was stowing her handbag in the overhead. Again. First annoyance to flight crew.

As I finished reading the book I bought in London, she asked what I thought of it. She'd been continually glancing over at me and my book just waiting until I'd finished it. She was fairly trembling with excitement at the prospect of discussing this book. Normally, I love discussing books and exploring the difference of what the writer wrote versus what the writer was conveying. Uncovering the hidden metaphors and digging deeply into the psyche of the characters and all that. However, this book is filled with landmines of issues (We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Soon to be a movie with Tilda Swinton according to the sticker on the book.) as the narrator is a woman who did not bond with her son as a baby and he turns out to be a killer in a Columbine-esque spree. The landmine part comes in from the fact that on the surface, she's a bad mother. Digging deeper, you don't necessarily think she's a good mother, but it's not quite as simple as that. Moving on.). So after MM1967 asks my opinion, she offers up that the woman was a terrible mother. I now know how deeply she's analyzed the prose and, like politics, realize I am not the one with the knowledge or patience to show her the deeper and longer term ramifications of such an opinion. I merely said no she was not and, in an uncharacteristically rude maneuver attempted to raise the very narrow divider between our seats. This proved a bit awkward and unsuccessful as we could still see each other quite easily.

Once we are airborne, MM1967's spouse stands at the galley door, facing the rear of the plane and begins to whistle. Loudly. It wasn't a complete song, but rather a bit of a refrain, over and over. Perhaps a song of the sea, we're not sure. John and I (seasoned BC flyers as we've had at least three previous flights in amazing comfort and felt a big smug for it all) looked at each other and rolled our eyes. Smugly. Soon the flight attendants needed to roll out the carts of free booze and menus (yes, menus! Ahhhhhhh...) and MM1967's spouse had to sit in his actual assigned seat to get the hell out of the way. Second annoyance for flight crew.

It was then time to order our food and MM1967 only wanted the salad and not the starter and explained each time ("just the salad?") that she was on a diet. Possibly third annoyance for flight crew, or perhaps just a who-the-hell-cares moment.

Fast forward to an hour before landing. The flight attendants again roll the trolley (clang, clang, clang) with more food and also some form required by US customs. MM1967 begins the arduous task of again moving items from handbag to drawer and back again while her spouse has been handed his form to fill out. He shouts loudly (in Manchest-erian), "What about our passports?" which is odd, as no one (to my knowledge) has confiscated their passports and if someone later were to ask to see their passports they could simply produce them. But that's just me.

Bless their little hearts but I'm pretty sure they are still locked in a room with US Customs agents due to the fact they tried to bring a houseplant or a side of beef in their luggage.

All for now, more later.

Customer Service Will Cost You in the End

Dear Jimmy,

Since my very first trip to the UK, I've grumbled about the lack of customer service. During said first trip, my sister asked if she could have onion on her cheese sandwich (we are very alike in many ways, a love of cheese sandwiches being one. The ability to function in society in an effective manner is where we differ, but that is another letter. Moving on.). The waitress looked a bit flummoxed and said, "There's onion on the salad, orrite?" to which my sister replied, "I know, could you also put onion on the sandwich?" The response was "We can't do that." Really? It's onion, it's all ready cut, just put some on the bread! We come, not from a land down under, but a land that guarantees that if you want a dog turd on a doughnut and are willing to pay for such, your wish will be granted. The customer is always right. The customer is king. That attitude is not just in retail either, we use it everywhere every day. If someone is walking through the office looking a bit lost, you help them find the correct cubicle in the maze of prairie dog homes in which we work. And so on.

I got used to being ignored when walking into a UK store and even dealt with the fact I would not be acknowledged until after my purchase was rung up on the register and money was demanded. I might then receive a thank you, I might not. I could do an entire day of shopping as a mime (with a beret but without the horizontal stripes as they are not flattering) and no one behind the counter would be the wiser - at least until I did the "pulling the rope" or "help, I'm trapped in a box." "Hrmph!" I mutter as I stalk out the store, "What this country needs is a store with great customer service that caters to the customer." Then I shopped at Harrod's (Harold's) and their customer service was exactly what I was used to (annoying or not, it was still comforting) - employees would ask if you needed assistance or provide a simple acknowledgment your presence on Earth with a nod or even a hello. Pretty simple stuff.

But there's a new owner of Harrod's and things have changed, and not for the better. As I struggled to find the bookstore (there's a lack of bookstores in London! Someone get on that!) I happened to stop in the Fine Furniture department as I saw a piece I really liked. I knew the logistics of me purchasing a piece of Fine Furniture from Harrod's was not practical - obviously it would have to be shipped, which is inconvenient and slow, and the fact the overall cost would be more than the Nap-Law estate is worth in today's marketplace. However, the sales staff did not know any of these internal debates nor my financial worth. As I looked at the Fine Furniture piece, the salesman yelled (yelled!) over, "Ya'lright?", which I interpreted as "Are you in need of my assistance, madam?", to which I replied in as haughty a manner as my travel-stained blue jeans, funny hair and randomly applied mascara would allow, "I am in no need of your services, thank you. 'Tis a lovely piece."

The best customer service I had during my latest visit? At the dumpiest souvenir shop near Victoria Station. I had need of the cheesiest London souvenir in existence and they had it. The man behind the counter welcomed me with a hello and let me go about my browsing. When I brought my cheesy purchases (which it must be noted, had nothing at all to do with cheese) to the counter he smiled, rang up my purchase and said, "Thank you, madam. Here is your change." I felt like a queen and I was glad his store got my money, even if it was only a few pounds. I only wish he'd been selling Fine Furniture as I might have actually bought the piece.

All for now, more later.

Pulled a Mussel

Dear Jimmy,

Have I mentioned that Mike, Sa and Kenna met us for lunch? In case you're not aware, Mike is a "foodie" and not only knows good food, but dines quite often in London. He's taken us to dinners and luncheons several times and the food is always terrific. If he recommends a restaurant, go - it will be worth it.

He recommended we meet at Sale e Pepe (or somesuch). Turns out it was four doors down (or so) from our hotel - I had almost stopped in there to eat lunch the day before. It is a proper fancy Italian restaurant with lots of yelling and tuxedos. The food was amazing and the place was packed with all sort of business people having lunch. John and I still wore our casual attire and thought nothing of it. As you have seen, we are casual people and the threat of fancy lunch cannot change that. I had linguine and clams and while I had to wrestle with a pasta-rolling spoon, I still managed to avoid splashing most of my tablemates with the sauce. I was also able to hum the Squeeze tune, Pulling Mussels from the Shell (see what I did there?) while I freed the baby clams from their holders. Although I felt a bit of guilt since these clams were so young and hadn't been able to experience the full clam experience of the sea, they gave their lives to a greater cause and were delicious.

After lunch we strolled back to our hotel which has a veranda with tables and ashtrays. While the pubs in the UK and Wisconsin may not allow smoking inside, a few have recognized that smokers are very willing to part with their money if they have a place to sit. We enjoyed a coffee and a dessert (well some of us had dessert - the always-willing-to-eat-American and her ex-Pat husband) and several hours of stories and joking. At times we were quite loud, but since we were sitting behind the hotel on a cool, rainy afternoon, we basically had the place to ourselves. The good people caught a cab to the train station and hopefully avoided being crushed within their train by all those commuters. We've since heard from them and they seem all right for the experience.

Back to food (most things will lead me there I'm afraid), I can happily add the following new items to my list of favorites: tattie scones (pronounced "scuns" I believe) from your kitchen - I would like more of those now please. Lucozade (orange flavor - note the lack of "u" - I'm using American spellcheck) a great way for this old machine to top up her electrolytes. Appletiser - read it in the new Ian Rankin book, tried it and found it divine. It would go quite nicely with the tattie scone breakfast fantasy I'm having right now. Scottish salmon - I always thought salmon was salmon and discovered this is not so. Insert happy sigh here.

The greatest food disappointment of this trip is that now a lot of the potato crisps are calling themselves potato chips and that just removes the exotic lure for me, although the sea salt and pepper flavor ("u"-less again!) are pretty kick-ass. So now you know that my not-so-hidden addiction that must be quenched once I hit Heathrow is salty potato items in a bag. Similar to heroin (or so I'm told) but I've not yet sold the television to get them - I can (and have) order(ed) them on-line and dole them out to myself as a reward for things well done or an it'll-be-okay-tomorrow soother for things that have gone balls-up. Perhaps the potatoes are rinsed in a lithium-tainted water before frying...either way, they do make things a bit better.

John's greatest food delight was the large amount of oatcakes that Elspeth sent along with us. He adores them and I find myself struggling to find the perfect topping to cover what to me, tastes like a doorstop. But that is due to my under-developed palette which was raised on sugar-coated, MSG-loaded foodstuffs. I feel every bit the unsophisticated American as I crash through Scottish and English food like King Kong in a souvenir shop roaring "good" or "bad" while smashing all the snow globes. A terrible thing.

John was able to almost fulfill his quota of bangers and mash as there was a great pub directly across the street from our hotel. Although smack-dab in the middle of London's Tourist Center (or Centre if you prefer), it had a great combination of the after-work crowd and only a smattering of tourists. I had a variety of different cheese sandwiches, some with ham some without, but all with cheese (although Wisconsin is America's Dairyland ["Come and smell our dairy air!"], ain't no better cheese than British cheddar), and they had cider on tap.

It was an experience that "wasn't half-bad." Not half-bad at all.

All for now, more later.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

And She Was

Dear Jimmy,

I simply must tell you of the young woman we saw on the train from Edinburgh to London. She was perhaps 22 or 23 and was wearing a dress that only an infant girl or 22 or 23-old could wear successfully. It consisted of multiple ruffles of eyelet lace from the very top to the very bottom, which considering how short it was, was very few ruffles indeed.

She slept most of the journey which left a good portion of her hindquarter exposed and just a narrow aisle's distance away from John. Had he not been a gentleman, he could have easily reached over and helped her cover her cellulite-free long bones with a blanket had I actually knitted one in time. Since I had not, John worked very hard to maintain an eyes-forward position, only glancing in that direction when admiring the free cake on the food cart ("Oooooh, free cake!"). Bless him.

When we arrived at her stop (York, if I remember correctly), she gathered her rucksack from the top shelf - narrowly avoiding exposure of yet more flesh. While attempting to hoist the rucksack upon her shoulder, however, she managed to expose what she'd kept hidden during the lowering of her pack. While the shortness of the ruffles caused the "ladies of a certain age," myself included, to do a bit of a H-rumph! (did I mention she was also wearing boots? oh pul-LEASE!), I did happen to notice that while she exited the train (not that I was staring or throwing daggers with my eyes you understand) she assisted an elderly lady with her suitcase.

I've obviously over-estimated our hand basket's position relative to h-e-double toothpick. Old dogs can be taught to accept young girls in ruffly dresses. Who knew?

All for now, more later.

Occasionally You Can Pass

Dear Jimmy,

After we left Scotland we had arranged for a few days in the Land of Dickens, where everyone wears top hats and carries chimney brushes. Imagine my surprise when I discovered this is untrue. Although certain buildings still appear to have their share of soot, I doubt the locals even notice it, much less pay an urchin to scamper up the flue to brush it all out. There are, however, a lot of people wearing impractical shoes, but that is the second thing I check for (soot being first and foremost).

John and I decided we'd each have a Grand Day Out - he chose the Imperial War Museum and a model aircraft supplier where he could buy all the appropriate colors for his model aircraft. I chose "shopping." I feel I must explain as everyone who heard I was spending my time in the Big Soot "shopping" assumed I was cashing in our retirement to buy many frivolous things. Au contraire! I am quite practical and in some ways quite frugal too (except with commas - they are free and I use them too liberally). My shopping actually consists of people-watching and sightseeing, with a stop or two at various shops (I am not made of wood, people!).

I began my day armed with a map and a tube ticket (go me!) and I proceeded to navigate my way through my limited area with ease. I could be heard mumbling about the ineptness (ineptitude? Must exercise my vocabulary!) of the tourists who have a tendency to just stop at random places on the sidewalk to gawk, act confused or look skyward as though to adjust their path based on the stars. Once I stowed my map away in my bag and continued on (with purpose! I knew where I was going!), I found myself being stopped by the tourists and being asked for directions. "Vich vay is Harold's?" "Excuse please, iz zis Sa-lone Street?" Amazingly enough, I was able to provide accurate, if somewhat vague directions because I knew where I was. Although I was not wearing wholly inappropriate shoes for my journey, I was still able to pass as a local. It was a proud moment and one I shall cherish.

I had a lovely luncheon on my own at a lovely French cafe - I cannot have too much in the way of cheese and baguettes - and while the service was a bit slow, it was grand to sit on a London street and observe. I also tried to figure out the stories of those around me - there was the businessman next to me who had wine with lunch (!) and read the paper. There were two French women who drank espresso, smoked, laughed very loudly, and then one of them abruptly stood up and hailed a taxi ("Tassi!") - I hope her friend knew she was going to do that, otherwise she got stuck with the espresso bill.

I realize there is a fortune to be made selling black business suits to those who work in shops. On my next visit I shall verify that all shops carry black business suits. If not, I do believe I've found a niche market.

Speaking of suits and shops, let me set your mind at ease about the potential for looting in the Knightsbridge area. All of the high-end shops had a very large, muscular man clad in a very nice suit (not always black) who would stand near the doorway of the shop. While some appeared a bit uncomfortable in their suit, the message was clear - one looking to start any shenanigans would find oneself catapulted to the other side of the road as though being tossed out of a roadside bar somewhere in the American West (ala Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse [without the suit, obviously]). Needless to say, all was quiet and well-behaved in Knightsbridge, so you can set your mind at ease.

One interesting fact we observed (audibly as you'll see - ha! see what I did there?), is that the police (coppers, filth, etc.) actually use the chase siren of old British movies rather than the "New York" version of today. John and I decided they do that for the tourists but just near Harrod's (aka Harold's) as it takes one back to a simpler time. As if.

I will soon be capturing my impressions of Edinburgh, Port Seton, Dunbar and The Cove, but like dessert they are best saved for last where one can savor and retain the essence.

All for now, more later.

My World is Flat

Dear Jimmy,

Returned home late last night from the most awesome vacation. I thank you for your considerable contribution to this holiday away. Your breakfasts were sublime and I could really go for one now thankyouverymuch.

The adventures we had were awesome (ah, there I go again), but it's true. Since leaving Chez Glen we had lots of other experiences that were pretty damn good as well.

It must be said however, as the bus drove us from Chicago northward toward our beloved Hacienda Nap-Law that I learned to truly appreciate two things: 1) the Midwest is flat, flat, flat compared with the rugged coast of Scotland and 2) there are two enormous fireworks stores along the freeway that would take up a city block of shops if dropped in the heart of Edinburgh. The irony of having not one but two firework stores is that technically, selling fireworks above a certain size is illegal. So what they may be selling in these massive stores (located in the middle of nowhere) is beyond me. It must also be noted that the parking lots surrounding these stores each contain the approximate number of parking stalls contained within the downtown of E-burgh.

After we got to our car and drove the freeway (the US version of a motorway, not to be confused with a tollway as found in Illinois, hence the "free." Moving on.), I realized that we (in the US) are a convenience-based society - we are extremely willing to remove existing bits of established city to ease our ability to travel. Veteran's cemetery? No problem - we shall solemnly and gently move it to a location a bit more out of the way as we need to push more cars through during the rush hour. (Note that rush hour in M-Town is when you have to touch the brakes during your ride home from the office which we find unacceptable and grumble-worthy.) After exiting onto one of the last main roads before we got to our eerily quite subdivision, John pointed out that Highway 100 (pronounced "highway a-hunnert") is as wide as a motorway (three lanes in both directions). Yet there are signs posted along Hwy 100 that protest the future expansion of that road from three lanes in each direction to four. This will require tearing down and rebuilding many of the businesses - including the lovely historical building on the corner which now houses a pub with very good food (history as defined in the US so it's over 100 years old! Watch us oooooh and ahhhhhh!).

Within minutes we arrived at our vintage 1950's tri-level surrounded by other vintage architectural nightmares (all painted in a color I believe is named Sad Brown) and sighed the glorious sigh of being *home*. There ain't nothing quite like it.

All for now, more later.