Wide Awake in Wonderland

We’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

inadvertent adrenaline rush August 14, 2008

London (Oxford Circle area) street scene

London (Oxford Circle area) street scene

Victoria Street in Edinburgh at night

Victoria Street in Edinburgh at night

It’s probably a good thing I’m by myself, because the amount of trouble I cause would no doubt cause anyone unwillingly subjected to it to have an aneurysm. That stated, let me share the tale of today’s misadventure…

After an admittedly brief stay in London (a great place that strongly reminds me of my beloved NYC. However, much like NYC, it’s somewhere I’d rather be with someone else and with some disposable income), it was time to head up to Scotland. There’s an overnight train, but it was stunningly expensive and, I’d read, quite noisy. The reviews were mixed as to whether it was a ‘civilized’ or ‘uncivilized’ way to get there. Thus, I decided to avoid the debate and booked a flight to Edinburgh instead.

So this morning at the hostel, I used my overpriced 30 minutes of Internet access to update my blogs, make sure I knew where I was going tonight, and get the lowdown on getting to the airport. Then I went out and meandered down to Westminster and the Thames. After a few hours of wandering, it was time to head back, get my stuff, and get on the road. My flight was at 6:30 pm, and I headed to the underground station around 3:30pm. Because my credit card doesn’t have a chip in it, I can’t use any of the automated subway ticketing stations an require human intervention. When the ticket clerk saw me lumbering up like a beast of burden, she asked if I was going to Gatwick. I was confused by the question, but she explained that I could buy a combo subway/train ticket that was cheaper than purchasing the two together. Fantastic! What a coup!

With that, I boarded the subway (so much fun being twice my usual size from the stupid bag on my back and having people ram into me every which way), got to Victoria Station, found the Southern Train to Gatwick, got on, put my bag up with the others, found a seat and – feeling pretty efficient – relaxed for the first time in half an hour. I glanced at my watch and realized I was going to be about two hours early to the airport, but oh well.

It was at that point that a strange dialog started up in my head. Basically, I vaguely wondered to myself, “Are you sure it’s Gatwick? What if Gatwick is the wrong airport and you get there and realize that and miss your flight and can’t get to Scotland and don’t have anywhere to stay tonight?”

“I don’t care,” I thought back, “I’m tired. Whatever. I’ll just stay here or take a train or …”

However, now that the thought was in my head, the slow burn of panic started to spark. I grabbed my bag and started digging furiously through it, looking for the print out of the ticket I’d made in the U.S.

I found it, unfolded it, and to my complete and utter horror, it said STANSTED AIRPORT. On the total and complete other side of town. At least a solid hour from where I was currently sitting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It was now 4:01 p.m. I was sitting on the 4:02 Gatwick-bound train. I flew out of my seat. All I knew was that I needed to get OFF THIS TRAIN BEFORE IT STARTED MOVING!!!!! I ran up to the luggage, and for reasons I can’t quite comprehend, a passenger was standing there holding my backpack (probably to put his luggage in the spot mine occupied and do god knows what with my bag). I grabbed it from him, but he didn’t want to give it up. I yelled, ‘It’s MINE!”, wrenched it out of his hands, threw it on my back, hit the “open doors” button, and jumped off the thing 5 seconds before it started moving.

From there, I found an employee, got instructions as to how to get to Stansted (another subway ride to Liverpool Street, and then a train to the airport) and made it an hour in advance – just enough to get through (the very slow – Great Britain makes everyone take their shoes off like in the U.S. That stupid step sure does slow everything down) security and walk up to the gate during boarding. So I’m here! Edinburgh!

First off, what a GORGEOUS town. Seriously. Amazing in a ‘best of what you’d expect’ kind of way (cobblestone streets, little shops, castles, crappy gray weather). I’m waiting my turn – as always – to use the hostel computers. Oh yes. It’s the Edinburgh Festival all month in August, which means half the population of the planet is here. Which also means rooms are scarce. Which finally means I had to stick with my original hostel reservation. As always, the top bunk. However, in stark contrast to my night in London where every person in the room was lights out, stone cold asleep when I walked into the room at 10:15 p.m. (!?), the folks in the last room where no where to be seen when I crawled into bed at midnight. Not a good sign.

Sure enough, around 3am, some of them started to come back – drunk, loud, tripping, lights on, and debating whether to go back out for one more hour. Some guy must have asked, “Where’s an ATM?” fifteen times. Not in this room, dude. Go back outside…and stay there. That’s my only advice. I’ve heard marching bands that were less noisy – but not by much. Needless to say, this nonsense went on until 5am, and I am not nearly so well-rested as I deserve to be. Oh well. The next two nights I have a room to myself at Glasgow College.

Meanwhile, as I mentioned, I’m waiting for the pay-by-the-half-hour group computer (no wifi, unfortunately), sitting next to a guy cradling a ten pack (minus two) of Carlsburg beer, and studying the posters for the zillion shows in town this month. While waiting forever for the Heathrow Hoppa to my hotel a few days ago, I met a guy from the U.S. who was on his way back from Oslo. He was a comedian who just played a big show there, and he was telling me, “It’s a great living.” Sounds like it! Where do I sign up?

Sadly, I don’t think I’m funny enough – or not that kind of super-sharp one-liner funny. I have my moments, but Kathy Griffin I am not. Meanwhile, I’ve noticed that I’m on the same tour schedule as Henry Rollins. He played in London last night, and will be up here in a few days. I had a friend in high school that more or less worshiped Henry Rollins. I probably listened to whatever spoken word he had out at the time once a week. It was good storytelling. What I recall is stuff about his obsession with Daryl Hannah and some issues getting through airport security being 6’3″ (or whatever he is) and covered in tattoos. In truth, I wish my schedule synced up with his a little better, because I’d love to see him and brush up on the latest version of his craft.

THAT is what I’d like to do – storytelling, spoken word, entertain. And I suspect I’d be damn good at it. Admittedly, I’m not the former front man of the band Black Flag, but I’m willing to get a few tattoos if that’s what it takes. Any storyteller job openings out there? Just let me know when you need me to start…