Muahaha, I managed to sneak in a Kamelot reference. But I was in Scotland! Granted, I went to Edinburgh, which is in the lower-lands of Scotland. But there were still a ton of hills.
But first, I want to thank all of my readers. Each and every one of you who put up with my pseudo-intellectual shtick, encourage me when I’m being an emo preteen, look past my cultural imperialism, and smile and nod at my obscure pop-culture references.
A while back, I entered my blog in USC’s Webfest 2011. Sophia won it last year, so I thought “what the hell” and entered mine. My dear friend and I sometimes have oddly parallel lives — I won “Best Column” at the Daily Trojan one semester and she won it the next, for example. Well, a few mornings ago, as the coffee fumes percolated in my brain, I opened my email to find I’d won $1,000 and that my blog was voted more badass than 21 others.
Without sounding too much like a beauty pageant entry, this blog is only possible because of you guys. I don’t really market myself. I don’t whore around for high traffic, largely because I’m lazy and know I don’t contribute much to the blogging world. But I don’t like talking to walls either (at least not online). Readers, each and every precious one of you, are why I blog. Thank you.
And while it’s on my mind, is there anything y’all would like to see more of? I have ideas for a lot of things but it’s hard to get to all of them. I am rather curious as to what makes you lovelies still read my little blog.
Anyway, back to my highland adventures.
Strange but true: I hate the film Braveheart. Mel Gibson irritates me and the story is horrifically inaccurate. It glosses over the douchebaggery William Wallace was capable of. Just like in Gibson’s other English-hating film, The Patriot, where they conveniently leave out that Gibson’s character was inspired by Francis Marion who, while valuable during the Revolution, also had the rollicking hobbies of hunting Native Americans and raping slaves.
But what I did like about Braveheart was the setting. Scotland’s such a gogeous land of myth and mystery. It’s haunted but earthly, and the frequent rain and wind make the days of sun and warmth even more glorious. I wasn’t here just to pay hommage to my non-existant Scottish ancestors though.
I came to visit my best friend from high school, Maddy. We were always odd ducks together, along with our coterie. I don’t make close friends easily. At all. So our friendship is something I treasure more than anything.
Maddy and I aren’t entirely alike. She’s an intellectual hippie scientist, atheistic, and a savvy liberal. I’m an intellectual non-hippie journalist, apathetic, and a snarky fiscal conservative. It makes for wonderful debate. But we have a lot more in common. Literary and pop culture geekery, an affinity for the bohemian, a dislike toward waste, a love of good food, and an ADD approach to conversation and stream of thought.
Basically, why Maddy and I are friends: we can passionately discuss Shakespeare one minute, then giggle over Stephen Colbert’s “Friday” the next. We are almost white hipsters. But not quite. Because white hipsters can’t recite the Prologue to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in Middle English.
“Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour…”
I arrived in Edinburgh on Monday. Picture a hound on the trail for cookies, and that was me sweeping the train station.
Maddy and I hadn’t seen each other since my freshman year in college. We were housemates during my freshman-sophomore summer, but my depression put a a downer on what should have been lovely arrangement.
People do change over time. Certain traits fade, others grow, and some people seem to change altogether. When we last met, we were younger, virginal, and less worldly. I was also in desperate need of happy pills. But while our lives have gone in different directions, our reunion was a wonderful one.
“Hey,” said an all-too-familiar voice. It was everything I could do not to glomp her. Thank goodness for my rolley-carryon.
Chez mon amie, I toured her lovely Bohemian flat, complete with her flatmates. I had a bit of freelance to do (and Game of Thrones and The Borgias to hunt down online), so I worked and we caught up. Dinner was an awesome homemade stew of peanut butter and sweet potato, as well as a fun meetup with her friends and boyfriend. The boyfriend definitely gets my seal of approval. He has to be the only white boy I’ve met who can handle dreads.
The next day, I explored Edinburgh.
Edinburgh is a gorgeous city. The weather was perfect. The architecture is glorious.
First stop: Edinburgh Castle
Though the area has had people since 900 BC, Edinburgh’s castle was largely rebuilt in the 1570s. One of the chapels has been around since the 13th century.
Then we hit up Edinburgh’s coolest musuem: Camera Obscura. It’s a museum dedicated to optical illusions.
A hobby of Maddy and her friends is skipping. Not the schoolyard kind. Skipping, aka diving in America, is hitting up grocery store dumpsters after hours. This sounds horrific and hoboish but hear me out: grocery stores typically dump vast quantities of perfectly good food out each day. Overstocks, busted twin-packs where one item survives, etc. It’s huge waste of perfectly good food. And the stuff is sealed up after all. Apparently it’s big in LA.
I got my first taste of skipping that night. One of the flatemates walked in with two pots of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
“Yeah, there’s two bin bags of it just down the street.”
Picture three yipping wolves tearing down the stairs and out onto the street. Replace wolves with girls.
Impromptu ice cream party? Oh yes. Our 20 pints of ice cream were delicious. We theorize the store’s freezer broke and since they could not break the seals to properly refreeze it, they just chucked it. A wee bit of ice crystals does not ruin that quality of ice cream.
For my final full day in Edinburgh, I went to a place everyone recommended. The Chocolate Tree.
I also hit up a jewelry store, the National Gallery, and the Museum of Scotland. Lunch came from the Gallery restaurant.
It’s official. I don’t like scones. Sometimes I find a decent, freshly-baked doughy warm one that holds together better, but most are too crumbly and induce dry-mouth. Even with a side of tea, coffee, or cider. You know what else is crumbly? Old tombs. And I’m not a necrophiliac.
Did I mention how awesome the weather was? It was perfect for sun-basking (like sun bathing but with no intention of tanning).
We were going to climb Arthur’s Seat…but we were a bit knackered. Later, we went to Maddy’s favorite Indian restaurant, Mother India. It was amazing. The best pershwari naan and saag paneer I’ve ever had! With light still out afterward, it was the perfect chance for a roll in the…
But alas, all good things come to an end. The next day I was bound back for London.
I had so much fun in Edinburgh. Hell, I was reminded just what fun is, as I’ve been having little of it lately. As a train carried me off, I felt a pang of, not jealousy, but longing. Of course my friend and her mates have their stresses and hardships, but I crave the friendship they have. My USC posse here (read, anywhere) is far from that, except for a precious few people. I need more opportunities to roll in the petals.
I had little time once back in London to sink into a mood. Because I had to skedaddle to a Kamelot concert. Kamelot is my absolute favorite band, and I’d heard tell that Roy Khan, the amazing lead singer, was leaving.
I went alone because no one at my flat shares my eclectic taste in music. I considered taking a shower first but then it hit me…I was going to a metal concert. Slightly greased tresses are a hallmark.
Kamelot had two preceding bands, Amaranth and Evergray. Amaranth is good but Evergray bores the hell out of me. Luckily, I had a hilarious Scottish guy to talk to. But first he had to break my heart.
“Eh? Khan already left. The singer from Rhapsody of Fire— Fabio Lione — is filling in.”
I guess he noticed my face, torn by anguish, spackled in rage, and two seconds from booking it out of there.
“No, trust me, he’s really good.”
Turns out it’s a small world. My Scottish friend, while in a small metal band himself, is also a geologist who regularly travels to Houston for work. He’d just gotten back that day. I added I’d just gotten back from Scotland. It was fun chatting with him, and there might have been a Snakebite involved. Then it was time for Kamelot.
Fabio Lione is no Roy Khan, but he is a very good singer. Where Khan’s voice swings between crooning angelic and rougher mortality, Lione is an exotic wolf with a slight predilection to howl. Not that howling is bad when you’ve got good pipes and it’s a metal concert. His voice sometimes had a reedy quality in its diction though, perhaps affected by his accent.
A neat suprise was the backup vocalist, Tommy Karevik, who got to sing “Center of the Universe.” Wow! I was lusting. He could be the new singer and I wouldn’t complain. Any Kamelot fans, check him out:
A second suprise was Epica’s singer, Simone Simons, popping by for one of Kamelot’s catchiest songs, “The Haunting.”
Even though there are better Kamelot songs, I have a very soft spot for “The Haunting,” as it’s the song that introduced me to Kamelot. You never forget your first .
Though I missed Khan, it was an awesome concert. As I squeezed past all the drunks and said bye to my (also drunk by this point) Scottish friend, I realized I’d had a pretty good last few days.
Of course, once home, I fired up the Google to find out why Roy Khan was not there. It’s probably for the best, as I always have the urge to throw myself at my screen and make out with him, so I don’t know how I would have contained myself seeing him live. His wife might have killed me. But I still wanted to find out.
Poor baby. He left because of total burnout, anxiety attacks, and depression. Something to do with religion too, but mostly stress. But I’m glad he had the sense to back off before he had a total breakdown.
After Steve Barton’s tragic death, I get chilled when I hear about troubled artists. It’s so much of a cliché — the emotionally unstable artist — that I believe real artists who are going through a lot of pain get ignored or made into media mockeries. It has nothing to do with the “pain of pursuing art” or some bullshit romantic notion. Like the same idiotic notion of dumbasses who say Heath Ledger died because he played the Joker. Creating art is not like going through labor…some pretty bad writers block excepting . There are so many non-artistic factors, like the exhausting experience of touring, or completely unrelated personal problems. Meh, sorry for the tangent.
I’m sad Khan’s gone, but he’ll be back eventually. Probably not with Kamelot, but he’s too talented to retire. As for the new singer…ooh la la, I wait with baited breath. Change isn’t bad. As long as the core remains, change is cosmetic.
Thing is, Kamelot’s last CD, Poetry for the Poisoned, while technically brilliant, was not up to their normal emotionally-arresting standard. When change is ready to happen, there is no stopping it. Another funny thing…Fabio Lione’s best songs were all from their last CD.
Yes yes, I saw the Royal Wedding. It was cute. But news-created highlights will give you a better sense of it than I ever could. Now I need to work on my journalism project. It should be interesting, as the interview my whole project hinged on just fell through. The game is on?