I’m actually a trifle disappointed. I have a nice official-looking card, signed by my surgeon, informing the world that I have a knee replacement, to be presented to the TSA as needed—and I didn’t need it! Apparently my new knee doesn’t contain enough metal (or not the right kind of metal) to set off most metal detectors in airports. Not that this is a ¬_bad_ thing, mind you…I was just all prepared to have sirens go off and then…nada. Quite the let-down!
On the other hand, if you’re going to spend 21 hours (count ‘em, 21! That’s just about One Whole Day _and_ Night!) getting home from Scotland, having been routed from Edinburgh to Paris to Minneapolis to Phoenix, anything that makes the passage through airports even minimally less complicated is welcome.
(I now have a new unfavorite airport. Granted, Charles DeGaulle is not _quite_ as horrible as JFK—where all the worst experiences of my long traveling life have taken place—but only because it’s newer and the people are somewhat more polite (no, really) while doing irrational things (after sending us through _two_ levels of security, including a hand-search of our cabin luggage, they sent us down a ramp to the gate. Only there wasn’t a plane at the end of it; we debouched into the street _outside_ the terminal, where we were obliged to wait fifteen minutes for a bus–whose driver then got LOST on the way to the plane (not kidding; he circled the terminal three times and kept making U-turns, dodging sewage-pumping trucks and construction equipment as we got closer and closer to flight time). It’s fortunate that among the few French things I know how to say is, “C’est mon mari!” (“That’s my husband!”), because otherwise, I would have lost Doug in CDG for sure…)
But we’re HOME, which is wonderful—the dachshunds were ecstatic at our reappearance and went in for exaggerated writhings of welcome, flinging themselves on the floor at my feet and peeing on the floor in demonstration of their delight–and we had an absolutely great time, zipping (in a leisurely fashion) from Edinburgh to Inverness to London to Ireland and back to Edinburgh.
We arrived in Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival, and left it on the first weekend of the regular Edinburgh Festival—both times, staying at The Scotsman, a delightful (if really eccentric—it used to be the office building for “The Scotsman” newspaper, and rather than gut the building, they just sort of…fitted…bedrooms into it, resulting in some truly peculiar rooms) place on the North Bridge, just off the Royal Mile.
Which I mention only because the Royal Mile in Festival time is something to see. There’s a great Scots word for that—“hoaching.” As in, “the place was hoaching with…” In this case, with hundreds of visitors fighting their way up and down the Royal Mile, or sprawling in tiny chairs outside restaurants with ice cream cones and pints of beer, or—like one family we saw, consisting of a father and four small boys—simply sitting on the pavement in a row, legs outstretched among the throng, placidly eating chips and vinegar out of cardboard trugs.
The Edinburgh Festival is a great cultural extravaganza: plays, musical performances, art exhibitions, literary readings, the Military Tattoo… “Fringe” is the Fringe Festival; a period before the regular Festival, featuring everything anybody wants to do and can find a place to do it in. The whole town becomes a warren of numbered “venues” (ranging from regular theaters to disused toilets), and street performers (you don’t see that many mimes and living statues anywhere else, even in Italy) and hawkers of Fringe performance tickets just about out-number the visitors. It’s the sort of experience that people call “colorful,” out of sheer inability to describe it more closely.
Now, I’ve performed myself a couple of times at the Edinburgh Literary Festival (a separately organized bookish part of the Festival season), but had never experienced “Fringe” before. As Doug observed, the people who benefit most economically during Fringe are the printers, who work day and night madly printing handbills, cards, brochures, posters, tickets, etc. for the constantly-changing array of performances—and the people (mostly young girls) who are hired to cruise through the crowds with litter-grabbers, picking all this stuff up off the street.
Naturally, some of what’s going on is great, and a lot of it is…well, it’s entertaining (or at least forces you to look at it, in the manner of traffic accidents). One heck of a lot of energy, though; the Royal Mile zaps and sparks like an electrical conduit, pretty much twenty-four hours a day. (Both Fringe and Festival occupy a lot more space than the Royal Mile, of course—but given limited time and the location of our hotel, we hung out mostly on the Mile and up in New Town.)
We were privileged to be invited to the dress rehearsal of one of the Fringe plays, a musical comedy translated from the Czech original, called “Desire.” Deeply entertaining, though I admit that attending in a mildly intoxicated state (believe me, the whole _town_ is mildly intoxicated during Fringe) probably helped.
Edinburgh wasn’t strictly for fun, though; while there, I met with Mike Gibb and Kevin Walsh, the creative team behind Outlander: The Musical, and we went together to confer with a couple of nice folk at the Scottish Department of Culture, regarding possibilities both for doing the showcase of songs at Tartan Day in New York next April, and for expanding to a full-scale stage production. A lot of encouragement, some useful suggestions—and Mike tells me he’s been sequestered at his hideout in Perthshire for the last two weeks, working feverishly on the complete libretto—can’t wait to see that!
In re knees, though, I will say that hauling up, down, and sideways over the steep terrain of Edinburgh did a lot for my rehab efforts. The next stop in Scotland did even more, that being a castle with a 99-step spiral staircase [g]—and a haunted room at the top. But it’s 4 AM here now, so Castle Stuart is a story for tomorrow!