Posts Tagged ‘Edinburgh’

Just One More

Posted: July 26, 2011 in Sundry and Various
Tags: , , ,

This is going to be another brief and sappy post. Brace yourselves.

In almost exactly a month, I’m leaving Edinburgh.  I’m going back to America, back home, to my parents, my family, some remarkable friends, my state, my nation.  I’m looking forward to it, seeing people I haven’t seen, seeing a country I’ve been away from for a year, hearing American voices, eating chili dogs.  Hell, I even miss high fructose corn syrup.

Last week, I had a mini freakout.  Edinburgh suddenly felt ridiculous.  The tourists are impossible for a city of this size.  The road works are confusing.  The preparations for the festival seem to be put there specifically to make life difficult for anyone trying to live in this town.  It’s still cold at the end of July; the sun only makes sporadic appearances.  The pubs close too early.  I hated Edinburgh.  Good riddance that I’m leaving, I thought.  To hell with it.

Which is not true, of course.  I don’t hate Edinburgh.  I’m not in love with it, like some of my friends are, but I don’t hate it.  I’ve enjoyed living here, all things considered.  I like the pubs and the wandering narrow streets, the weird directions, the gothic buildings.  I love the strange otherworldliness of Old Town and the clean Georgian elegance of New Town.  I even kind of love the crowds, which aren’t so bad once you get off the Royal Mile.  I’m ready to leave the city, but I actually think I’ll miss it.

But the worst part is the part that I really don’t want to deal with, or think about.  It’s the people.  I will miss the people.  I’ll miss getting a phone call at 9:30 with those fatal words ‘let’s just go out for one’.  I’ll miss the blow-out parties at Lindsay’s flat.  I’ll miss lying in the Meadows on those rare sunny days.  I’ll miss the coffees we’ve drunk.  I’ll miss the drunkenness and the sobriety.  I’ll miss the faces of people I know so well.  I’ll miss going to the Vue on Saturdays, and getting drunk on Tuesday afternoon (or Wednesday or Thursday for that matter).  I’ll miss sitting down in a pub and the smiles when someone says ‘I wrote a thousand words today!’ I’ll miss the stories.

I’ve left places before.  I’ve left friends before.  Clinton, St. Andrews, New York and now Edinburgh.  People scattered across the world in random nations, states, provinces.  Keeping in touch by facebook.  Hearing about friends getting married, or losing loves, or getting a job, a home, another life.  I’ve managed to stay in contact with a lot of people, and I plan on seeing them all again.  But it’s never the same.  Not because people change too much.  Hell, I’ve got friends I’ve known since middle school and, despite growing up, we’re still friends.  But it’s never the same because something has always ended.  A year at graduate school, at college, at high school.  We grow up and stay close, but the experience cannot be repeated.

All of the philosophical stuff comes out at times like this.  Life is ephemeral.  We only have the moments as they happen and then they are gone.  We should not try to hang on to them too tightly, for we will only live in the past.  All I can think right now, though, is that a good friend is about to leave to go home.  She’s not the first to leave; she won’t be the last.  Toasts will be drunk and promises made and, eventually, kept.  It’s not the end; it’s merely another step along the road.  That doesn’t make it any easier.

Let’s go for just one more.

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I can be pretty damned sarcastic (I know how surprised you must be to read that).  But there are times when I want to be completely and totally honest.  And this is one of those times.

Last night, I had the great good fortune to participate in a reading with other members of my MSc class in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh.  Over the past three semesters, we’ve been together an awful lot.  We’re a small class, which means that most of us know each other quite well.  When I came to Edinburgh, I was a tad nervous to be in a group of other writers.  I’ve heard of courses where writers compete against other, even come to hate each other because everyone else seems to be a threat.  Thank God, that was not the case with this course.  What I’ve found is a kind, loyal group of incredibly intelligent, talented people, ready to embrace each other’s work as well as provide criticism, understanding and, at times, commiseration.  Trying to become a writer is not easy; it can be a thankless job and few of us will be able to make our livings at it.  It matters a great deal to be surrounded by people who truly love what they do, and who are willing to support each other in the pursuit of a creativity that is simply not as readily rewarded in mainstream society as business acumen or financial prowess.

So last night, after an exceptional day of panels concerning the business side of literature, we got together and read our own work.  In a pub, naturally; we at least fulfill that stereotype.  Now, I do not particularly enjoy spoken word events.  They can range on the spectrum from generally entertaining to mind-numbingly boring.  At the worst, they can be pretentious celebrations of some very undeserved egos.  Every once in a while, you come across an excellent reader or writer, but I admit that I have taken to avoiding them.  Not so last night.

Having come through several semesters of at times painful workshops, I was grateful to hear stories I had never heard, and some that I had.  Grateful to the camaraderie expressed every time someone else took the stage, and grateful just to be sitting with such a spectacular group of people.  I will be shocked if every single one of us doesn’t manage to make a go of being a professional writer.  MSc programs sometimes get a bad rap for being writing factories, producing generic ‘literary’ novelists.  I can say with certainty that this particular program has not done that.  We are all so incredibly different in our interests, in our styles, in the way we approach writing.  This is a result, I believe, of particularly good instructors, but also of our own desires, our own independence.

We were told of the importance of having a community.  What I learned last night was that we do not have to go looking for that community.  It’s right there next to you, in the person you’ve argued with, got drunk with, laughed with, commiserated with.  We have formed our own community and I, for one, am immensely grateful to be a part of it.  And I can say that honestly, without sarcasm or cynicism.

This is going to be one of those ‘geez, my life is fascinating’ sort of posts.  Brace yourself.  I live in Edinburgh–a glorious city, beautiful, gothic, that drives me completely insane 9 days out of 10–and, this being Scotland, it was something of an event when the sun shone yesterday.  Not only did the sun shine, but the wind had sunk to a light spring breeze, the sky was totally clear, there was no chance of getting all four seasons in one day, as there usually is in Edinburgh.  So as I am on ‘vacation’ from grad school, so to speak, I betook myself to the Meadows, a public park in the middle of the Old Town.  There I witnessed what happens on a sunny day in a place known for its continuous greyness.

It seemed that the entire city turned out to picnic in the park.  There were people juggling, boys on unicycles, crowds of students with those little barbeques you can buy at Tescos, couples sleeping, children playing, bicycles inexplicably and dangerously traversing the crowd.  I laid down on a nice sunny patch of grass, had my lunch, opened my book, turned on my music and settled myself in for a few hours of existential contemplation.

The problem with existential contemplation on a sunny day in Edinburgh is that you begin to consider, naturally enough, your existential self.  Which I did.  It happened when I sat up to remove my shoes.  In a flash, I saw myself, sitting there on that green expanse.  And I did not like what I saw.  I saw a twenty-something girl in Levis, H&M tank top, wearing worn down red Converse with no socks, listening to folk music on her iPod, iPhone tucked into her back pocket.  I saw a girl drinking an organic smoothie while reading ‘American Psycho’, eyes shaded against the sun by her horn-rimmed, retro sunglasses, head propped up on a messenger bag with pins that read ‘Peace: Back By Popular Demand’ and a picture of Che Guevera.  I saw (and I tremble as I write this): a hipster.  The only thing missing was a pashmina and skinny jeans.

Allow me to rephrase that: I saw a fucking hipster.  Because I, like the rest of the civilized world, do not like hipsters.  They are false creatures of darkness who use ‘ironic’ ironically.  They move in packs, like werewolves, and listen to bands you’ve never heard of just because you’ve never heard of them.  They ride unicycles…and there is nothing I irrationally despise more than the unicycle (it defies all laws of God and Man, but let’s not get into that).  They are pop-culture leeches and they have usurped all the good things, like Godard and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and acoustic guitars.

And I am one.  Joanna reassured me that I could not be a hipster if I wasn’t doing any of the things I was doing ironically.  But of course, I am ironic by nature.  I’m a sarcastic, snarky film snob.  And isn’t not doing something ironically that  you should be doing ironically by extension ironic? The irony of being un-ironic in an ironic setting? Dear.  God.

Kerouac defined the hipster of the 1940s, but went on to say that there are a million and one false hipsters out there.  There’s an excellent quote from ‘Desolation Angels’ about this, but I can’t find it.  And now I’m referencing Kerouac and my cliched nature is complete.  Fuck.

In my defense (from myself), I actually want to read American Psycho.  I have a Che Guevera button because I respect him, and I have read some of his work.  I love my Cons, and my iPod, and my iPhone Caligula.  Levis fit me, and they are not artificially distressed.  I was drinking a fruit smoothie in an attempt to get my 5 a day.  If anything, I am a sincere hipster.

How very ironic.