Traveling, Learning, Dancing, and Swearing at the TV

I wasn’t really sure coming into this week if I would have an abundance of stories to tell, but thankfully whatever powers that be seem to want to give me all I can handle, which is completely O.K.  I saw and did some interesting things and had a blast all the way through.  Hope you all enjoy.

Class Update

Gaelic:  My first graded test for Gaelic is next Wednesday.  We did a practice test in class of the exact same difficulty and length, and I graded myself an 18/25.  That being said 5 or so answers were wrong only in that I mixed up à (in) and ann(s) an(m) (from) (or is it the other way around?), and that I forgot to lenite some words that should have been.  Basically, they are easy fixes to correct, so I am feeling pretty good about the first test next week.  Just gotta tighten up the bolts on a few things.

IPDA:   I buckled down the other day and completed my first (short) assignment for the course.  It wasn’t difficult, it was just tedious finding and entering data.  When it comes time for me to write my research paper I will have to use SPSS and really get into the nitty-gritty of variable relationships.  But for this first assignment I think I did a pretty good job, though I have yet to formally submit it.  It will be my first graded item over here using UK percentages, so I am looking to knock it out of the park to get my confidence up for what is to come.

Poli Thinkers:  I have started my essay on Locke, choosing to discuss his theory on the right to rebel and how it relates to his interpretation of the social contract (not my idea, as I picked it from one of the eight questions we could choose from).  In the past few days I have gotten pretty good use out of the study floor of the library, and since I have been skimming through multiple secondary texts the work should prove to write itself.  In fact, I’m about of a fifth of the way through, as I just completed my opening paragraph Thursday night.  Though the paper is not due until the 27th I am trying to get it out of the way now so that I don’t have to worry about it when I get back from traveling in two weeks time (see later story).  As long as I just find the time to sit down and commit to working, this paper shouldn’t cause me too much of a headache.

Glasgow, Ho!

Sometimes you just have to make it all up as you go along, and that includes going abroad.  This past Saturday, no concrete plans had been laid by anyone to do anything extraordinary or outgoing, so I threw my hand on the table.  “Hey, who wants to go to Glasgow for S’s and G’s?”  Before long, the small crew that was Bridie, Lawson and I found ourselves with round trip bus tickets that would take us to a city that Anthony Bourdain referenced as the perfect place to go “if you are looking for a beer and a beating”.  What could go wrong?

If you were expecting a negative answer to my rhetoric, I might have to disappoint you, as nothing really went wrong per say, but a lot did happen that was unexpected and/or a little uncomfortable.  For starters, I began the day running on very little sleep.  Since our outbound bus left at 8:30 a.m. we had to leave HC by 7:45, which meant getting my ass out of bed at the wonderful hour of 6:30 … did I mention it was Saturday?  No, I wasn’t hungover, as I didn’t drink the night before.  However, that didn’t stop the party in my suite from lasting until 1 in the morning.  By the way, sharing a door with the common area kinda sucks.  Not that I don’t want anyone to not have fun, as I hate being a buzzkill, but hey, when I gotta sleep I gotta sleep.  Even still, once everyone left, my mind just refused to shut down.  1 turned into 2 which turned into 3 which turned into 4.  Somewhere between 4 and 5 I finally found unconsciousness.  Yet, I still woke up before my alarm at 6:30.  Groggy and pissed at my body, I begrudgingly rolled out of bed and mustered the stamina to get ready for the journey.

The morning walk to the bus station may have been a little chilly, but my friends and I enjoyed seeing the colors of the sunrise over Arthur’s Seat, and made funny banter about how I wanted to bring a Cuban up to the top on my last day (the cigars, and yes, if you understand what I wrote it is exactly how I said it, so you can probably guess how Bridie and Lawson berated me after).  Also, and this is an inside joke, but LOOK OUT FOR THE TOMATO KETCHUP!

The bus-ride itself was nothing fancy to write about, as the countryside seemed rather bland and the weather was turning foul.  Most of the time I studied my guide book of Scotland to see what there was to do in Glasgow, making notes in my head of prominent street names and landmarks.  Having a good base of understanding to the lay of the land is a very useful tactic, as I have been finding out.  Once in the city, we located a post office, as Lawson had to send a package.  The employees at the place were more than happy to chat about the city, and provided some great tips as to where we should eat.  Very nice people, that lot!

While we had no specific plan to the day, we all agreed that visiting the cathedral was top on our priority list.  This isn’t because of any of our group’s religious convictions or anything like that, it was just because we had heard wonderful things about it and needed to see it for ourselves.  It did not disappoint.  I am not sure if I was allowed to take photos or video footage, but nobody stopped me, so I figured I was in the clear.  The original gothic architecture was absolutely stunning, and every step that I took resonated throughout the hall.  The inner sanctum was just as impressive, with the stained glass, vaulted ceiling, and massive columns giving the place a truly unique aura.  Down in the lower chapel lay the tomb of St. Mungo, the patron saint of the city of Glasgow.  Catacomb-esque supports covered the area, and had I not known my location I could’ve swore I was in the Mines of Moria.  If you haven’t guessed by reading my other blogs, I have a pretty big love for two things, Lord of the Rings and ancient architecture.  This was right up my alley, regardless of any religious connotations it may have had.

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The cathedral itself looked deserted upon our approach, giving it an even more imposing vibe.
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People still attend mass here.  The service must be grand.
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Couldn’t find a balrog around one of these columns.
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Woah.
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It’s a bit crooked (check my corrected one on instagram!) but it’s still my favorite picture.  There’s no filter, it was just that freakin’ majestic.
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Looking back at the main hall.
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Wonder what these halls must’ve looked like when lit by candlelight.
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Ah yes, nothing more holy than IKEA.

Once we had our fill of the cathedral, we went out back to the Glasgow Necropolis, a cemetery with a decent overview of the nearby landscape.  We took some photos and looked at a couple unique graves.  We also all almost ate shit on the muddy terrace that made up the place, especially Lawson, who, in Bridie’s words, sounded like an “old man orgasming” as he almost fell into the mud.  I’m just going to have to trust her on that one, even though I heard this pronounced auditory clusterfuck for myself.  Sorry buddy, it’s on the internet now.

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The gate to the necropolis.
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Probably would look a lot better in the summer.
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I claim this bridge because it is a nice bridge.
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A neat little mausoleum at the top of the hill.
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Love me some Celtic stuff.
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The cathedral in the background, and three tourists in the fore.
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Selfie cred to Lawson.

As our foray to the lands of the passed concluded, we all agreed that it would be a good time to find a place to eat.  This was especially prominent as the weather was getting worse by the minute, so we decided to pick up the pace and try to find Market Square, a supposedly good place to find a bite, as recommended by people at the post office.  Along the way we found the Old College Bar, and decided to stop inside.  The oldest pub in Glasgow, c. 1515, it was small, quaint, and had a very nice local vibe to it.  While I enjoy a history lesson, this was not the reason why I stopped here.  No, I stopped in to follow in the footsteps of one of my idols and influences, Anthony Bourdain.  If you do not know of him, or have not witnessed No Reservations or Parts Unknown, then you are missing out on the journeys of a person who could be considered as one of the most well traveled and interesting men in the world.  I’ll link his wiki page here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Bourdain

In any case, before I came to Scotland I was browsing Netflix and decided to check to see if there were any episodes of Parts Unknown related to Scotland – there was!  The episode itself was based in Glasgow and the Highlands.  Bourdain spoke very highly of the city, calling it one of his favorite places in the entire world.  He said this from a barstool at the Old College Bar, where I was standing in.  One spot following the footsteps of another done.  Many, many more to go.

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We kind of just happened upon the place.  Very, very small establishment.
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This was just up the road from the Old College Bar.  Fantastic job to whoever did this art.
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I don’t know Dr. Who, but I do know this is kind of a big deal.  TARDIS, right?

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/07/travel/gallery/bourdain-parts-unknown-scotland/index.html

While I admire Mr. Bourdain a great deal, I don’t think I necessarily agree with him on his opinion of Glasgow.  Though touring around the city was a nice little adventure, I just couldn’t put my finger on the same pulse of the city as he did.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a nice place to see and explore, but I just didn’t find it as appealing.  That being said I didn’t fully see everything in the city, so maybe another journey is in order down the line to get a better grasp of the locale.  In any event, there’s still plenty more to say in this story.

While our stop to the Old College Bar was brief, our lunch break was not.  As the rain pummeled us, and I barely avoided getting hit by cars (seriously, almost got hit about four times that day), we eventually found Market Square and some refuge from the elements.  Sadly, I took no pictures of the place, but if I were to describe it it would be as such:  A renovated airplane hangar lined with bars and restaurants, the ceiling draped in a sea of Christmas lights, with the center of the complex home to little shopping stands selling art of homemade whisky wood products.  In short, very inviting and comfortable.  Our hunt for the cheapest menu led us to Bar Square, a burger joint on the South-East corner of the square.  Bridie got a burger with pulled pork, pineapples, and eggs.  Lawson got a double burger, the buns replaced with waffles.  I decided on a burger with pulled pork and a side of chicken wings, and ordered the “Glasgow kiss” sauce along with them.  The gentleman next to me asked if I knew what a proper Glasgow kiss was, and while I did not he was happy to fill me in:  “It’s a headbutt”, he told me.  I am not particularly good with spicy food, as my heat receptors just can’t handle some sauces, so suffice it to say that I was a bit nervous for my meal.  The result was a bit anticlimactic however, as the spice quickly dissipated, and I was left unimpressed.  Still, the burger was fantastic, and I was munching on a gluttonous trifecta of beef, pork, and chicken.  Life was good, and I know my companions could day the same.

During our meal, we discussed our plan of action for the second half of the day.  All of us being science buffs, the only logical answer was the Glasgow Museum of Science, all the way across the city.  “Why not walk?”, we discussed; and so we did.  All the way across the city, most of the way in the pouring rain.  I’ll be fair and say that walking the River Clyde was neat, but the destination was nonetheless miles away.  It only got better though, as upon our arrival we were horrified to discover that there was indeed a hefty £12 entrance fee.  “Fuck” was the universal response from all three of us, as none of us wanted to drop that kind of cash to get in.  By this point it was almost two, and we had only a few hours left in the city.  So what could we do?  Well, we decided that the best course of action was to just grab a bus back to the city center and figure it out from there, so that’s what we did.

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Walking the River Clyde on the way to the Museum of Science.
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STOP LOOKING AT ME SWAN!
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We made it so close, but got science-blocked by entry fees.

Let’s talk about the bus really quick.  Again, not that anything went wrong, I just found these things amusing:

  • We sat at the bus stop for ten minutes before realizing that they were actually picking people up on the other side of the road.  Musta seen at least 5  buses stop there while we were waiting.
  • As we got on the driver asked where we were going.  Bridie and Lawson both turned to me.  “I … uh … what?  City center.”  C’mon guys, don’t put me on the spot like that.
  • As we signaled to get off (you have to hit the “stop” button, who knew?) I stood up a little early and the momentum of the bus slowing pushed my knee sideways into the seat, and I heard a crack.  Probably just popped a joint, but it freaked me out nonetheless.  I’ve watched/coached/witnessed too many knee injuries in sports, and for a moment I thought my time here was about to get exponentially more difficult.  But, when I found that I could put weight on it, my fears eased and we carried on about our day, albeit as I limped for a few moments.

Now back in the city, our options were once again wide open for where to go and what to do.  Thankfully, the rain had dissipated, and walking about became much more enjoyable.  Embracing the fact that the city was at our fingertips, we just decided to see where the side streets took us.  As it happened, we stumbled upon George Square, one of the central points of the city.  Surrounded by old Victorian era architecture and numerous statues, we took a moment to enjoy the sun finally beating down on us, and to wage war on the vast amount of pigeons occupying the square.  I’ll link the footage that I took of all of this at the end of the story.

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Midday at George Square

Once we had our fill of accosting birds, we decided to trek on.  Just around the bend, we happened to find the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art, a.k.a. GoMA.  While we wondered what was inside, the real mystery was the statue out front … The Duke of Wellington.  Yes, it may be just a statue, but at some point in not so recent history a Glaswegian or two decided to put a traffic cone on top the statue, replacing it whenever someone took it down.  Eventually, the authorities gave up trying to remove the cone, and the sight has become a staple of the city.  Seriously, they sell t-shirts, keychains, postcards, magnets, and novelty condoms with the image of this thing on it.

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“Art”
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Actually, yeah, it’s pretty dope.

Our excitement from the statue did not carry over into GoMA itself, and before we knew it we were surrounded by minimalist expressions of … hanging clothes?  Garbage taped together?  Lightly painted canvas?  FRAMED CONSTRUCTION PAPER?  What the fuck?  If people are getting paid for that then I am in the wrong line of work.  Might as well drop out and make paint splatter portraits with guinea pig blood.  I’ll start taking orders at $150,000 a painting.

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Making some modern art of our own.
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Framed. Fucking. Construction. Paper.

Needless to say, our stay at the art museum did not last long.  At this point in the day our legs were rather weary, so we decided to find a pub and grab a seat and a drink for a while.  A quick google search for “best pubs in Glagow” led us to The Pot Still bar in the middle of the city.  A genuine whiskey bar, the walls were lined with hundreds of bottles of the stuff, as well as dozens of people who stopped in for the rugby game.  Scotland v. Ireland.  Apparently this rugby tournament that was going on was kind of a big deal.  Back in Edinburgh, our fellow API friends were out at the pubs all day, day drinking with the locals watching the games.  While we weren’t quite as turnt over in Glasgow, the atmosphere of the bar was still rife with energy, and we tried to fit in as much as possible.  Clap when they clap, cheer when they cheer, and drink when they drink.  It was fun.  Though I have little understanding of how rugby is played, it was still fun to watch what happened to be such an intense game.  Plus, the beer was good, the crowd was friendly, and I was finally sitting down.  Can’t complain about that.  Scotland also won the match too, which didn’t hurt the spirits of anyone at the bar in any way whatsoever.

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Had to sneak this photo, as no one wants their photo taken at  bar.  These people are absorbed by the game – who could blame them?

The final portion of our time in Glasgow had us trying to find our way to the top of the Lighthouse, a building in the center of the city with a viewing platform.  As we got vertigo riding the 6 stories of escalators to the top, we enjoyed the novelty of the building, as it had this strange gallery sense to it paired with meeting rooms and conference halls.  Quite universally adaptable, the Lighthouse.  In any case, it was a nice little detour to wind down the day.

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While it wasn’t that tall, the view was still nice.

6 o’clock was fast approaching, so my party and I decided to find our way back to the bus station.  We stopped at a McDonald’s, which was so much more visibly cleaner than one back in the States we all were visibly shocked and appalled.  We hit up a few touristy shops, and took in the sights that were readily available about us, only getting but a little lost on the way back to the bus station.  Though the bus was late, we got on at a reasonable time and started our trek home.  This however did not mean that our Glasgow experience was over.  No, as it happened, a very drunk, very high Glaswegian happened to sit in front of us on the ride home, and proceeded to sing to himself in the bus window, openly drink, barely manage to keep from falling into the aisle, and swear up a storm.  It was extremely uncomfortable, and there was a point where I was at the edge of my seat, ready to move in case this asshole tried to do something stupid.  Thankfully, his drunken high ass got off at Haymarket, and we didn’t have to deal with him when we got off the bus.  Straight out of Trainspotting, this clown.

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George Square, at night!
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Just a really neat building on Buchanon Street.

I feel like this story wasn’t exactly representative of my best writing, but I digress.  The journey took up the whole day, and writing every little detail would be nigh impossible.  I am sorry to say though, that I wasn’t particularly enamored with the city.  Perhaps it is just because I like historical sites, or maybe it was because I was running on barely any sleep, but Glasgow just felt like it was missing something.  That’s not to say it’s not without its charm though.  Anthony Bourdain saw something here, and through the rain I suppose I could see where he was looking.  Where Edinburgh has the Old-town and New-town vibe to it, Glasgow is much more contemporary, with taller buildings and a much more urban feel.  The food scene looked to be epic, and I hear the night life is pretty good.  There’s definitely a bigger chance you might be stabbed, but you take the good with the bad I suppose.  Perhaps my crew and I just weren’t exploring the right place, or perhaps I need more than one day to truly explore the city.  Whatever the case, it feels like I have some unfinished business to the West, and I might have to get back on the bus for another day trip.

Below is just some footage I shot for the sake of shooting footage.  It’s not really a vlog, but it has some good moments nonetheless:

 

CARNIVAL!

What do you do when you just get back from a 10 hour trip to Glasgow, you’re physically exhausted, mentally shredded, and your body is about to shut down from only running on an hour and a half of sleep?  Go out of course!  Yes, indeed the hedonistic nature that dwells within me overcame my urge to just fall asleep.  But I say that with the caveat that our group had already planned to go out, for I had gotten a flyer advertising Carnival at The Mash House.  Samba, Soca, Cumbia, Kuduro, and Afrobeat?  I was sold instantly.  To me Latin music is, in the words of the almighty Chazz Michael Michael’s: “It’s provocative, IT GETS THE PEOPLE GOING!”  I may have taken that quote a bit out of context but I think it emphasizes my point perfectly.  You want to drink?  You listen to pop.  You want to chat?  Jazz is key.  You want to sing your head off?  90’s music or rap takes the cake.  You want to dance?  Latin music.  That is so far and away true (in my “professional” opinion) that there is simply no room for debate on the matter.  So, after mustering up some liquid stamina thanks to my good friend Dr. Disaronno, Lawson, Bridie, Chris, and I decided to see what was up at the Mash House, ready for whatever may have come.

The initial results … were disheartening.  We arrived shortly after 11, right when the party was scheduled to start.  The music was about as bland as something you would hear in a high school Spanish course, and the population of clubbers had barely eclipsed thirty.  Moreover, Lawson forgot his ID, so he ran back with Chris to grab it while Bridie and I waited first in the club, then outside as we weren’t very optimistic at the chances of the place becoming packed.  Looking back, I’m glad we stuck around.

Coinciding with Lawson and Chris getting back, my friend Jes (she’s in one of the Three Sister stories and maybe another) texted me, wanting to join our group.  Since she had no idea where the Mash House was, I had to go find her at Three Sisters, which luckily is just around the corner.  I left Bridie, Chris, and Lawson, hoping that when I returned the crowd would not disappoint.  To my genuine surprise Three Sisters was absolutely mobbed, as  Napier Uni students were throwing an event outside (#fucknapier, they are our rivals I guess).  Finding Jes was no easy task, but eventually we met up amongst all the plastic cups on the ground and made out way back to MH.

When we returned, a decent queue had formed outside the club, and Jes and I had to wait a few minutes to get back inside.  It may have been boring had the “incident” not occurred.  Don’t worry, didn’t do anything stupid, but I can’t say the same for the one guy.  Poor dude.  So here’s the thing:  MH is not on street level – the entrance is tucked up on a little close that skirts around a building.  The elevation change is also quite drastic, so these stairs are steep.  So, this poor soul, probably pleasantly intoxicated, walks out of the club and stumbles a step … and then takes another … and another … gaining speed down the stairs until he can’t control himself.  He fell down the stairs in a dead sprint.  Did I mention this close is in the shape of an L?  Yeah, this guy had nowhere to go at the bottom, and so I witnessed a man, at full speed, smash his face (straight on, I did not see him turn away) into the wall.  That’s one way to stop I guess.  He then fell over into the adjacent alley, and all I could see were the lower half of his legs … which were not moving.  Dumbfounded and not knowing what to do, Jes and I looked on as a paramedic (who just so also happened to be in the alley for some reason) rushed to check on him, along with this guy’s friends.  Another person walked up to the bouncer after a minute to say that he was ok, but there’s quite a bit of blood.  Though I didn’t see the extent of the injury firsthand, I would assume that it is fair to say that a broken nose was probably the least of his worries.  At least he wasn’t dead like I thought he was for a brief moment.  Seriously, impacts like that fracture skulls, or send bone spurs from your nose into your brain.  That guy got lucky, though he may need some cosmetic surgery in the near future.  In any event, it was quite the way to start the festivities of the evening, and after the bouncer got back to business and checked our ID’s, we joined back into the club.

Instantly, I could tell the vibe was different.  The main bar area was filled with couples dancing and swaying to a live Latin band, complete with a violin, tambourine, and a percussion set, and we had to weave our way through them to find the rest of our party.  We could also feel the heavy bass from the “club” floor, and decided that was where we needed to spend our time … after some ceremonial tequila shots of course.  I’ll be honest, I love tequila.  Proper tequila shots that is; limes and salt included.  There’s simply nothing better than the flush of heat that rushes from your face down to your clothes and you maw down on the lime – I haven’t found a better form of chaser.  I think it also gives me the best buzz of any alcohol that I drink.  It’s warmer than most, and it gives the drinker more of a body buzz than a head buzz, which I think is fantastic.  That, and it can be one of the more relatively cheap drinks at the bar, and I haven’t had to pay over £2.50 for a tequila shot since I arrived.  Thanks for being my friend, Mr. Cuervo.

Now that we had lowered our self-awareness to not care how people thought of us, our group hit the club floor to see what Carnival could do to a person.  Immediately, the great vibes of the room slammed into us, and the bright lights, immense amount of smoke, and packed house made the place pop like we were in a party down in Brazil.  That, and the place was decked out to look like a rain forest.  The ceiling was covered in this mesh that brought a very different feel to the club than I am used to, and the walls were covered in bright colors to stimulate all sorts of senses.  The following video is from a few years ago, but it is the same event at the same location, so I hope it gives you a good idea of just how freaking fantastic it was:

Intoxicated by the bass pounding in my chest and the rhythms in my bones, I found myself moving on a whim, melding into the crowd and letting go of everything relevant outside that moment in time.  I danced quite a bit with Jes and watched Lawson go harder than anyone I have seen of late go on the dance floor.  Bridie and Chris were also tearing it up, and our group found ourselves in an unadulterated feeling of ecstacy that only moments like these can provide.  Even when the overwhelming heat of the place started to get to us we kept going right at it.  It got so hot that I took off by collared shirt and tied it around my waist, also rolling up the sleeves on my undershirt into a makeshift tank top.  Seriously, it must’ve been over a hundred degrees in there.  It was awesome.  Surrendering to life, I just kept on dancing, and before I could think about it my body was drenched with sweat.  That was ok though as I was just like everyone else in the club, including my friends.  Primal, I think, is the best word to describe the aura in that room.  No one gave a damn about there appearance.  No one gave a damn about whether or not their dance moves were any good or not.  Everyone, though, found within themselves the spark of our animalistic tendencies, and in that room no one had names or convictions; we were all simply human beings caught up in something that transcended individualism.

We danced, we sang, we drank, and we sweated profusely.  At about two in the morning (mind you I am still running on barely any sleep from the previous night) Jes and I decided to call it quits, and I walked her home.  Since her place was in the other direction, I had plenty of time on the walk back to HC to cool off, dry off, and come back to reality.  My limbs tingled with anticipation of more dancing, and I had to focus on my breathing to calm myself down.  Outer Cam was beat, but Inner Cam wanted to rave all night long.  I decided to save that for another night though, as I really did need some sleep.  So, at roughly 2:30 in the morning, I got back to HC, fell onto my bed, and slipped into a wonderful state of post-adventure unconsciousness (a.k.a. sleep).

Carnival did not disappoint – it crushed every expectation that I had! 10/10 night.  The music, the locale, and the company all contributed to me having one of the best nights that I have had since I got here, if not the past year as a whole.  It was that damn good, and I am relishing in the fact that there should be many more of these nights to come as the temperature starts to rise.

Super Sunday

Even though I am 3000 miles away, my love for football has not vanished.  Come Super Bowl Sunday, you bet your ass I was at the bar.

After ordering pizza from Domino’s and sharing it with Bridie as well as my flatmates, we decided that the destination of choice was the Peartree Inn to watch the game.  My squad consisted of myself, Lawson, Bridie, Chris, and Allison.  We arrived at the bar a little early to get our bearings, and to our surprise the establishment wasn’t super packed.  We were also happy to see that every room in the place had a tv, and they were projecting it on a big screen in the main hall.  However, we stayed in a smaller room, where representatives from Fireball were hosting a beer pong tournament.  With their sponsorship of the event, fireball shots were a dollar, Apple Pies (fireball and apple cider, incredible mix), and firebombs were cheap.  Moreover, we got a ton of merch as there was a rum chata rep there too.  “Want a free fireball hat?”  Don’t mind if I do!  “Want a free rum chata shot and sunglasses?”  Don’t mind if I do!  “Free lei?”  Don’t mind if I do!”  The amount of swag I had on was a bit much to be honest.  But that was fine, SBS is a holiday to me, and I felt like just cutting loose.

I had a “bomb” for the first time.  As I mentioned, firebombs were cheap, but I had no idea what they were.  What better way to figure out than to just order one blind?  Despite the fact you were also entered into a raffle to win an NFL jersey if you bought one I also jsut wanted to try something different.  I figured it would have just been fireball and beer.  To my horror, it wasn’t.  Seeing the bartender crack open a Monster made me instantly regret my decision.  But, since I paid for it, I downed the concoction anyway.  Pro tip kids, don’t mix energy drinks and alcohol.  Even in relatively small doses the mixture can and will fuck you up.

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Here goes nothing.

Once I managed to keep the firebomb down, I decided it would only be proper to pick an American drink for the evening.  “Why not PBR?”, proposed Bridie.  Because it’s water, Bridie  Nonetheless, it was about as American as I could think of, and I don’t like Bud heavy, so I swallowed my pride and donned the Blue Ribbon.

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“In this portrait, we see how a young Vermonter has fully committed to having a good time, double fists of PBR and all.  What an inspiration to us all.”

Finally, after I belted out the national anthem along with Luke Bryan, the game began.  The first half was incredible, as the Falcons smashed the Patriots, giving them an ass whooping that I thought only the Browns could allow.  It was great, and I showed my enthusiasm by cheering at the top of my lungs in support of the Dirty Birds.  Then halftime came, and Gaga rocked the house.  Everyone in the main hall sang along with her too, which was pretty nice.  Come the end of the third, life was good, as the Falcons were way up and looked to have it on lock.  However, it was 3 in the morning, and I did have class is a few hours.  Feeling confident that all was right with the world, the remnants of my squad (Lawson and Allison left at halftime) walked home.

I shoulda fuckin’ stayed.

Out of curiosity, I checked my phone just before I went to bed, just to confirm that the Patriots had sufficiently sma- …. WHAT THE FUCK?  THEY WON?  HOW THE FUCK DID THAT HAPPEN?  I was beside myself, and just about punched a whole in my wall.  I had missed the greatest ending to any football game in history, all because I thought the Falcons had it on lock.  Apparently not.  I should’ve just committed to a lack of sleep and stayed up to see it through.  I would have been the only one of my squad left, but I would have witnessed history.  Never again will I assume that something is impossible.  To be fair though, I am positive I was not the only one to call it that early.  Like I said, it was deep into the hours of the night.  Regardless, the Falcons still fucked up worse than I did.  C’mon guys, 25 points!  Tom Brady, I hate you with all of my being, but you are the greatest quarterback of all time.  There, I said it.  Now excuse me while I wash my mouth out with soap.

Despite the fact that I went on a roller coaster of emotions, my night was still pretty good.  I drank some good drinks, and had a blast with a crew that I am quickly growing very fond of.  I will always love football.  I will always hate Tom Brady.  I will always watch to the end of the game from now on.  Sigh …  Well, at least, officially, the Browns are now on the clock.  Let the offseason begin!

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Wouldn’t trade these guys for a pair of Super Bowl Tickets (unless the Browns were playing).

All Aboard the Hype Train

This isn’t so much a story as it is a teaser.  It’s 9:38, Tuesday, and Lawson and I have just finalized our travel plans – booked flight tickets and hostel rooms – for the mid February break.  I am beyond stoked for where we are going.  The original plan was supposed to be London, but we scrapped that as that seems to be more of a day trip.  The next option was Copenhagen, but we realized we literally had the capacity to go anywhere, so we further explored our options.  I won’t give it away yet, but I will say this:  My road that I travel is going to take me to a lot of places, but this place, this place is special in more ways than I can think imaginable.  My mind is spinning with the possibilities of what this particular city can do to me, as it has not only inspired some of the greatest contemporaries of all time, but has been a focal point of so much world history.  My flight leaves the 18th … It can’t get here soon enough!

Arabian Revelations

I don’t really have a running title for this section regarding passages from Lawrence of Arabia, so I might change it up every week (wow that sounded preachy, trust me, I am not treating it like a holy book).  Regardless, I am taking the reading slowly as it is not only hard to find time in my schedule to read for fun but also to read for a long period of time.  Thus, I can only read a chapter every few nights or so.  This week’s passage comes from chapter one, the first two paragraphs at that.  To me, they exemplify the profound effect that conviction has on a person: drawing people into its tempting maw, becoming an intimate part of them, eventually (for better or worse) taking over their mind, body, and soul:

‘Some of the evil of my tale may have been inherent in our circumstances.  For years we lived anyhow with one another in the naked desert, under the indifferent heaven.  By day the hot sun fermented us; and we were dizzied by the beating wind.  At night we were stained by dew, and shamed into pettiness by the innumerable silences of stars.  We were a self-centered army without parade or gesture, devoted to freedom, the second of man’s creeds, a purpose so ravenous that it devoured all our strength, a hope so transcendent that our earlier ambitions faded in its glare.

As time went by our need to fight for the ideal increased to an unquestioning possession, riding with spur and reign over our doubts.  Willy-nilly it became a faith.  We had sold ourselves into its slavery, manacled ourselves together in its chain gang, bowed ourselves to serve its holiness with all our good and ill content.  The mentality of ordinary human slaves is terrible – they have lost the world – and we had surrendered, not body alone, but soul to the overmastering greed of victory.  By our own act we were drained of morality, of volition, of responsibility, like dead leaves in the wind.’ (p. 27)

A Letter Fit For a Queen (of Scots)

Scrolling through my Facebook, I saw that the National Library of Scotland was hosting a one day only exhibit to portray the last letter that Mary, Queen of Scots wrote before her execution.  From everything I’ve seen and heard, she is kind of a big deal, though Tara claims that she didn’t really do anything, just a lot of stuff happened to her.  Whatever the case was, I figured it was a good chance to get cultured and see some historical documents firsthand.

Admittedly, the queue was unexpected.  “It’s a piece of paper”I thought, “how long could the line be?”  As it turns out, very.  It took me about 45 minutes to loop around a map exhibit to get into the premier exhibition room itself.  In the meantime, I got to read up on what it is that I would be looking at.  Here are some words from the flyer the librarians(?) were handing out:

‘On the evening of Tuesday the 7th February, 1587, Mary, Queen of Scots received the news that she was to be executed at 8 o’clock the following morning.  During the short time that was left to her she wrote a letter to her brother-in-law, Henry III of France, her old ally.  This letter is on show today … In her letter Mary tells Henry of her impending execution and the injustice of her sentence.  She sees herself as a martyr to the Catholic faith.  Having no time to tell him the full sequence of events, she hopes that the bearers of her letter will do so in her place.  She asks the King to see to it that all the wages of her servants are paid, and commends him her son, the young James VI of Scotland.  She encloses two gemstones, talismans against illness … Mary’s letter remained in the French Royal archives until the French Revolution.  It then passed through various hands [until it was presented to us] in 1923.’

In short, it was an important document from one of the most famous Scots in history.  Seeing as it is almost 500 years old, photography was prohibited, as flashes could ruin the document.  When it came to be my turn, I carefully studied not the words, as they were in French, but the style of writing.  It was evident that beyond the royal penmanship there was something more behind the strokes themselves.  They seemed sharper, more scribbled, extra ink at the ends of letters.  Mary wrote this letter knowing she was about to die, and I could see her stress in her handwriting.  She must’ve wrote quickly, without care of neatness or grandeur.  The extra ink pressed in told me that she was pressing down harder than necessary.  My guess is that it was anger, not fear, that caused her to do this.  Her writing could do nothing to save her head, and she knew that.  It made me wonder what death row felt like, but I think that only those on the chopping block (terrible pun, I know) can truly know what it feels like knowing death is hours away.  Here’s hoping I never find myself in that position.

To summarize, it was an interesting look into the past of Scotland.  History and old documents have always peaked my interest, this one being no different.  One of my personal goals in life is to have people look back on some of my writings, since, you know, I’m just going to be one of the most famous people in history (hey, I can dream, right?).  For a short walk into town, this was a nice little experience, and one that I shan’t soon forget.

KING OF THE NORTH!

Due to massive pressure to go to this place from people back home, and considering that I just finished the series to date right before I left for Scotland, I went to the Blood and Wine pop-up bar, themed after the one and only Game of Thrones series.

About a half hour walk from HC, B&W is located on a quite street in the basement of the Daylight Robbery bar.  I had heard the stories; I had read the blog posts; I expected a queue.  To my astonishment, the place wasn’t busy at all.  Perhaps it was because we (I went with my friend Jes) got there around 10:30, but yeah, the light crowd made it much more enjoyable to be at the establishment.  Without any hesitation, we got down to business of sampling all the various drinks of Westeros.

I started the night by ordering a Strongwine, based off of King Robert Baratheon’s favorite. It packed quite a punch for a red, but nonetheless had a very smooth and fruity taste.  No wonder it was the King’s drink of choice.

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Any GoT fan will recognize the classic purple hue of Strongwine.

Next, Jes and I decided that the best option was to do the tour of the wines of Westeros.  For £10, we got a wine guide, sealed up in a neat little package, that described the six glasses of white and red stylings we were about to share.

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The first set we sampled were White Silence of the Riverlands, Lys the Lovely of Lys, and Dornish Sour Red of Dorne.  Of this batch, I preferred the White Silence, as while it was rather tart the boldness of the brew made enjoyable nonetheless.

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They even gave us a map, how kind!

Between our first and second set of drinks Jes and I managed to get a hold of the Longclaw sword (John Snow’s) and a Stark shield they had on display.  Truly, I felt like the King in the North with these items in hand (or perhaps it was just the wine).

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This feels so right.
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Though it’s just a prop, the amount of power you feel with a sword in your hand is staggering.

Back to the business of drinking, the second set of wines we drank were The Imp’s Delight of Lannisport, and the notable personal concoction of Tyrion Lannister, Volantis Sweet Red of Volantis, and Arbor Gold of the Reach.  Far and away Jes and I agreed that Arbor Gold was the best of the six, probably because it was the only sweet wine of the bunch, though they all had their charms.  I will put the drink descriptions below for any lore junkie/wine connoisseur that is interested.

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The Imp’s Delight, Volantis Sweet Red, and Arbor Gold.

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Following our tour of Westerosi wines, we still had a few more drinks we wanted to sample, including the titular “Blood and Wine.”  It cost a pretty penny for one glass, but would it really have been a proper trip if we did not get this drink?  Below is a video I took of the bartender making the drink.  Notice how they all are decked out in GoT themed clothing!

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Blood and Wine
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Just now realizing how scraggly I look here.  No excuse for my disheveled appearance.

I would write a review of the Blood and Wine concoction, but I think I will save that experience for myself.  As it so happened, a table for two opened up right as we finished the drink, so we sat down and treated Jes to a mug of sweet mead, whose name escapes me.  It was delicious.  Paired with one of Sansa’s Lemon Cakes it truly helped to make the evening more pleasant than it already was.  For real, the walls were lined with props and themed decor, the drinks were fantastic, and the company was absolutely incredible, what more could I ask for?

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My partner in crime for the evening, thank you for a wonderful night, Jes.
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Brews and pastries fit for a Khal and Khaleesi.
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The candlelight really added to the vibe of the place.

We drank, we talked, we laughed … we even met up with Bridie and Chris on their way out.  They were there the whole time!  We had walked right by them and none of us had noticed each other.  Ah well, the bar is still open for another couple of weeks, I’m sure we will get back there at least once more.  For this night though, I wouldn’t change a thing.  Perfection is a strong word to use, but I really can’t think of a better word to describe my experience at this place.  Simply a wonderful night, one worthy of telling about from Winterfell to King’s Landing.

The story has come to an end, but the pictures have not … enjoy!

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The registers were even covered with furs … awesome!
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I need it, all of it.
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Yeah, I nerded out so hard.
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I took a pass of the Frey pies … for obvious reasons
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Page one of the menu.
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Page two.
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They were playing the show on the four monitors in the place, and the walls were lined with GoT maps and wanted posters and other neat little bits of lore.
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Not GoT related, this light fixture was just damn cool.

Final Remarks

This week was a very productive week.  Not only did I make substantial progress in all of my courses, I checked a few things off of my bucket list here and had a hell of a lot of fun doing do.  My happiness level increases day by day, and given the fact that I know what is to come in the next few weeks I can only imagine it going ever higher.  Life is not just good right now, it’s outstanding.  I can feel myself growing in all sense of the word, as my mind is adapting to a new vision of the world that I can see before me, and my body is toning itself up as I ramp up my workout routine and eat healthier foods by the day.  I have found new friends, seen new places, done new things, and thought new thoughts.  All of that, and I am realizing at this very moment that I have been here one month to the day.  At this rate, I think the Cameron that left the United States is going to be a substantially different person than the one that returns.  It is said that going abroad does change a person, for better or worse.  As of this session, I would have to agree in spades.

Next week should be a fun post to write, as I’ll reveal where I’m going for February break.  Some of my friends know already, but creating suspense around it is fun.  Valentine’s Day is also on Tuesday, and as of a few hours ago I have plans for that as well.  I think it is going to be a very good week.  I suppose I shall see.  Until then though, tapadh leat.

2 thoughts on “Traveling, Learning, Dancing, and Swearing at the TV

  1. Ah, Cameron, what a marvelous, life altering experience you are having. Envious, I am. Looking forward to hear where you end up on Feb. break. You think you look disheveled in the photo, but I do believe you might fit right in. What did that drink taste like?

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    1. The Blood and Wine was a very bold red, with a potent kick but a very smooth finish. I think it was mixed with orange juice, which gave it a pleasant acidity and a pop of flavor. Though I wasn’t familiar with that combination before I now think very highly of it!

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