Wide Awake in Wonderland

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

Laugh not at Madonna, for you may find yourself Madonna August 16, 2008

Traditional Scottish breakfast (the dark thing is black pudding) in Glasgow

Traditional Scottish breakfast (the dark thing is black pudding) in Glasgow

Your author outside the Glasgow Art Museum with her new magenta jacket - bought  just as much for warmth as for color and some much-needed polish!

Your author outside the Glasgow Art Museum with her new magenta jacket - bought just as much for warmth as for color and some much-needed polish!

Okay, not Madonna in the sense of the career or the money or the fame or the adorable adopted semi-orphan with the still alive father or the buff biceps or the awesome memories…BUT, like Madge, you may find yourself with an accidental fake British accent.

I have an accidental fake British accent.

It started slow. I started incorporating the fanciful words I found most enchanting into my internal dialog: wee, cheers, lass, bloody, arse, wanker, slag, etc. etc.). Then I started talking to myself with a weird (Scottish? Half-assed Scottish?) accent? It made the conversations in my head interesting for once…

Then it got worse. All of the sudden in Edinburgh, if I would bump into someone I would say “sorry,”…only it would come out “surry.” !?!?!? “Pardon” or “excuse me” started to take on similar annunciation soon thereafter…

It’s like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers: I AM NOT IN CONTROL OF THIS FAKE BRITISH PERSON I AM BECOMING.

To counter the effects, I’ve started talking to myself in a fake Russian accent. And dropping my articles. (Zoo can count on me to have plan…)

So while I’m revealing weird things about myself, let me fill you in on my “Smile Experiment.” This is a good two years in the making. So, as I’ve mentioned, I had a relatively fancy corporate job wherein I would travel weekly to meet with customers and broker deals and all that jazz. Meanwhile, in my zeal to look like Madonna (not exactly, although I envy the cut upper arms), I maintained my running regimen of roughly 20 miles a week. (Per Google and some unnecessary and unwanted math lessons, a little over 32 kilometers). Long story short, I have pounded the parks and pavement of a lot of big cities and small towns and everything in between Based on no criteria but my own gut, I then evaluate said place on the reaction of the people on the street when I smile at them. Wacko, much? Nice to meet you too….

So, with that I can tell you:

  • Portland, OR – friendly
  • Carlsbad, CA – snooty
  • NY, NY (Central Park) – totally disengaged
  • Minneapolis, MN – helpful (thank you Schwanns truck drivers!!!)
  • Washington, D.C. – completely stunned to be smiled at, but after 2 seconds of shock they start to remember how to smirk (too much Bush Jr?) back
  • Reykjavik, Iceland – friendly
  • Dillsburg, PA – underpopulated- no data despite multiple runs
  • Glasgow, Scotland – world-class at looking away…UNTIL I came upon these two older women (probably early 70’s) who inexplicably reminded me of my paternal grandmother and her sister, were either of them still alive. As soon as they saw me smile, they stopped me and wanted to know, “What was going on?” I admitted the truth on oh-so-many levels, “I have no idea what’s going on.” They turned me around and pointed out some trailers behind us in the park, and started listing off the shows the people wandering about had appeared on (all of which were completely unknown to me – much like my grandma and great aunt detailing the lives of the citizens of their small town in PA).

Anyway, just then a man started to walk by, and one of the women grabbed my arm and said breathlessly, “He was on ‘Take the High Road‘!!!!'”

“Who, him? I asked as I noticed an older man coming toward us. When they nodded, I stopped him and asked what was going on, and he explained that some comedy series was being filmed there this week. At that point he gathered a few more actors (one of whom played ‘Molly Baker’s father’ or some such thing) and all of whom – and a million apologies for the stereotype, but I swear it’s true – had some really bad teeth. What’s up with that?

Anyway, the ladies who stopped me were all but swooning at this point, and I didn’t have a damn clue who any of this people were. Thus, good deed done for the day, I gave them a wave, left them with the celebrities, and continued my run back to Five Alarm University.



Pity the shattered nerves of the University of Glasgow student August 15, 2008

The Elephant House in Edinburgh - where J.K. Rowling scrawled the original ideas for 'Harry Potter' on napkins. I took a handful of napkins - and scrawled a few ideas of my own - for good measure!

The Elephant House in Edinburgh - where J.K. Rowling scrawled the original ideas for

It's like a Westhighland Terrier convention in Scotland and Ireland! Here's a little one (Honey) on her way to go camping in Glasgow.


I’ve been staying in their (extremely) modest dorms for about 24 hours now. First off, it’s convenient to nothing. Well, it’s close to the University of Glasgow (duh), but otherwise nothing. And then they’re kind of Nazis. Its a baby blue room with full-on Ikea furniture – twin bed, desk, wardrobe – and a single felt covered board with the following posted on it, “All notices, posters, etc. should be placed on this notice board. The occupant will be re-charged for bedroom redecoration if notices/posters are elsewhere in the room.” Naturally, I went out and got my hands on every Hannah Montana poster in the country and covered every bloody square inch with the things. I paid cash for the room. Let them figure that one out…

Actually, the strict “do not decorate your prison cell” directives aren’t the half of it. The place has some INSANELY sensitive smoke alarms. As in, think about smoke or smoking or the smell of smoke or how you’d like a smoke and the whole joint erupts in ‘end of the world’ blaring and general pandemonium.

There’s a little sign by the sink (on the sacred blue wall, no less!) alerting you that the following inocuous activities could lead to  yet another 3am fire drill:

  • aerosol sprays
  • hairdryers
  • ironing
  • heavy breathing (okay, I made this one up. But why not???)

As I mentioned, I have been here a mere 24 hours. We have had FIVE or SIX (I lost count shortly after my ear drums melted) fire drills. And I haven’t exactly been here a consecutive 24 hours. I did actually leave for a while and wander around (yawn), and I went for a run this morning. And I went and got some dinner.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that no one will ever die of smoke inhalation or severe burns while studying at the University of Glasgow. They may go deaf and their nerves may be so shattered that they can never relax for the rest of their life without fear of blaring alarms going off for no reason. But no one will die of a fire or anything closely resembling a fire. Ever. You can bet your life on it. Or trade in a good night’s sleep. Either way…