Sunday, September 29, 2013

40 Hours in Glasgow in 3,159 Words

I wasn't planning on being in Glasgow.

Sure, I had intentions to go there, but only for a night that I might leave early the next morning and catch my flight to Iceland.

But, mid train ride, after seven hours of travelling that day, I realized that I was an entire day ahead of schedule. I thought that today was tomorrow that the next day was not today.

Which means...

I had entire day to kill in Glasgow.

I know I ought to look at that as a bright opportunity, but I wasn't totally keen on sightseeing another city. I didn't have it in me. I had already done some hardcore obligatory sightseeing these past few weeks to supplement my travels and wasn't ready for another round of binging on churches, museums, and fine-views.

When I got to the train station, with new-found pal-of-sorts Katie whom I had met on the train, we scanned the area for my host, Flynn – a young man that resembled a dinosaur in his profile picture on Facebook.

I am connected to Flynn through Aimme, a dance friend of mine from back in Seattle although I'm not certain that she's there right now. Colorado comes to mind.

“What does he look like?” she inquired.
“Sort of like a blond dinosaur,” I told her.

An old man walked by.

“Prehistoric?” she asked.
“Not quite...”

Katie was a total champ in making sure I wouldn't be at the train station all night... which wouldn't be possible since the train stations in Scotland close at night. Their country is so tiny that they have no need to keep the trains running all night.

She called his phone. No answer. Called. Left a message. Called.

And then he picked up.

And Katie was not too fond of his tone of voice. He said he'd be down in around 10 minutes or so. Katie wasn't too sure she wanted to send me home with him.
This was Katie-gone-Momma-bear.

“No, I think he sounded pretty ok in the messages,” I had said. I had been sending him emergency texts from random strangers' phones telling him that:
1. I'm coming today.
2. I'm accidentally here a day early so I would be there two nights. Is that ok?

He had reassured me that it was totally fine and chill and all sorts of adjectives that you want in a host.

Katie stuck around.

We kept scanning faces.

Finally, a lanky not-so-dinosaur looking guy walked in, gave me a hug, and we knew we had our man, Flynn. Not sure if Katie was keen on letting me go or not.

Flynn and I started our trek up the streets of Glasgow. As we neared his house, he started to explain the housing situation. He lives with a couple guys and they're all super chill. He warned me about the house because they had had a party the night before. This guy was incredibly sweet – he had made up his bed and was offering it to me for the night (hallelujah – not with him in it) since he thought the couch might be in a noisier room till later than when I'd want to sleep.

We entered a grand entrance. There were marble columns and a giant red-carpet staircase.

We walked past the staircase, down some stairs, down a hallway, then up some stairs, and through two more doors to get to his bedroom. I dropped off my stuff and he exhibited hosting-skillz that would make his mother proud. He offered me the services of his toothpaste, made sure I was fed, and made sure I had what I needed. I was grateful.

Upstairs, I got to meet the rest of his flatmates that can pretty much only be described as chill (which I know has already been used three times in this post). I'm sure there are more words to describe them but that's the one that comes straight to mind when I walked into their living room.

I felt like I was walking into Daniel's flat back in Alaska – the one above the Quik Shop where they (Dani, Nik, and Daniel) let me sleep in the closet. The entire vibe of the room was the same except for one was in a major city (sort of – depends on your feelings on Glasgow, population 600,000) and the other in a rural, remote town in Alaska.

I quickly was able to settle into a chair and did what I do best in these sort of situations – watch other people play video games. After work, back in Haines, I used to come to the Quik Shop and do the exact same thing. I felt so at home.

It wasn't long, though, until I started to droop. I'd been travelling for over 12 hours and, along with that, I was sick. In being sick, generally the first rule of recovering is to get enough sleep which is something I hadn't achieved yet. I hadn't had a solid night's sleep since when I started to get sick. I had been staying in a hostel on the Isle of Skye and there were always loud folks to ensure that my goal of 7-8 hours of sleep was unattainable. That morning I had out-loud addressed the Indian man who decided to have a phone conversation at 6 AM in our caravan - the same one who snored all night and was loudly smacking on take-out in the evening.

I curled up in Flynn's giant bed, not utilizing every corner, turned on Julian Lloyd Webber's Lullaby album, and fell asleep promptly, not waking up once the entire night. Waking up was like finishing a nutritionally balanced meal. I felt incredible... sort of. Waking up when sick rarely leaves you feeling like a champ during those first minutes - but I felt like I had finally done my body right. I needed that. Thank you, Flynn.

The whole house was asleep so I quickly slipped out to see what Glasgow had to offer me this day... or maybe what I had to offer it.

I checked out the city.

It looked very, eh, city-esque. Nothing too remarkable.

If I had been in the mindset of, “Golly! I'm going to Glasgow! I want to see stuff!” I would've been a lot more excited, but I just didn't have it in me. I feel like someone had given me a few tokens of “emotional tourist energy” and I spent my last ones in Edinburgh (worth the spending!).

I saw a homeless dude.
I saw a homeless lass.

I grabbed the lass (not physically) and took her to a restaurant of her choice (Kentucky Friend Chicken) and got her set with a meal (bucket of chicken) for the day.

She was Romania and it was only fit. As I travel, my heart remains soft towards the homeless I see on the street because I know I'm not that far off from where they are. I'm one medical bill from being on the streets. The only reason I don't fear that is because people take care of me. People have been taking care of me in every country I've visited and the Romanians were especially sweet. For me not to pass on the love and kindness shown me to them for their most basic of needs would require a very callused heart. I never want my heart to callus towards these humans. I never want to get to the point that I can pass without looking down and acknowledge their humanity.

"You're a human. You're alive. You matter."

I ran to the Poundstore and grabbed a few boxes of Cadbury granola bars off the shelf, forked over the pounds, and shoved a few bars in my pocket.

Now, instead of trying to dodge the begging humans, my goal was to find them all. Instead of avoiding their glance, I was seeking it out. Instead of pressing on, I could pause.

“You hungry?” I asked each time.

When they nodded, I would hand them a granola bar, make eye-contact and move on.

And thus, my day had a goal, and I meandered on to the Botanic Gardens in the West End.

One thing most Glaswegians I talked to were in clear consensus on was that the West End was grand and that the East End was not to be touched by me. Catch me a few months earlier and you would've likely seen me hike straight into the thick of the East End, but I had heard the Botanic Gardens were pretty and wanted to have soup with Katie... so I went to the West End.

In between granola bars and the Botanic Gardens was in a café and I got an email from a David whom I had met back at the hostel on Skye. David of Nazareth who, if we were to merely define him by his capabilities, would be a blacksmithing carpentry security guard dude.

I wrote up his J[ew]date profile. It goes like this:

Hey Ladies.
This is a sir named David.
He's dead inside.
You should date him.

He's Jewish.

Now, forget all that and just read this sentence, “He's a blacksmithing carpenter from Nazareth.”

Sounds a lot like Jesus, eh? He was Jewish too.


He has a sister and a brother and he's multilingual. He holds two guns for his job.

He's great at carrying around packets of pepper and loves reading out loud Winnie the Pooh to 23-year old travellers he meets at hostels.

Engaging conversationalist who will leave you feeling like crap.


So, David.

He wove together a story of hitchhiking around Skye and coming back to the hostel but there was no room so he hitchhed on and "I also really enjoyed you're company although I felt like I only got to know you, but we really didn't have a chance just to hang out. So in the morning I decided to try my luck and came to Glasgow with a friend to see if you might be sitting in the park (you weren't)."

I don't know if I would write in such detail about folks, generally, but this is David and he's keen on honesty and openness (and leaving you to feel like crap - but not really - but sort of - but he made sure we reconnected but...).

Since we were in the same place, it seemed like a keen idea to get together. He was kind of like Daniel back in America. I met Daniel on the train to Chicago and later we met up on the other side of the country in Portland, Maine.

By the way, I smell terrible right now. Absolutely awful. I kept this shirt in a plastic bag with my socks that were worn in wet hiking boots and I think my shirt now sort of smells like a mix between that smell and a wet dog.

I shot David my itinerary for the day and hobbled elegantly along to the Great Western Road.

A few charity shops (thrift shops down the road...) were observed as I kept up my search for something to give my mom. Nothing. Mom, I can't find you anything. You like useful things and I'm not finding them. I don't know how to buy you clothes. I know you'd like something from Scotland, but I don't know what to get you. You have scarves. You have gloves. Sometimes I want to flick your arm in frustration for raising me to think that gifts have to have some purpose. I just want to get you a gift, damn it, and I can't! That's probably the third time I've sworn on this blog. Sorry, y'all, I'm frustrated I can't get my mother a gift. I didn't find Dad anything either.

1:00 PM crept up sooner than I wanted it to which meant there was a chance I would be meeting Katie for lunch. We had discussed it on the train and left it open ended. We mentioned a place and she said she had lunch generally at 1 PM. I shot her a message and told her I'd be there, despite having not heard back from her.

For lunch, I decided to get the set of a soup, sandwich, fruit, and coffee at Naked Soup.

“Hi – could I please buy the set lunch now but only have the coffee and get the rest of my meal later?”

I got a bit of a blank stare.

“Yeah... but why?”
“There's someone I might be meeting here but I'm not sure yet and what's the WiFi password?” I haphazardly replied.

As he was pouring my coffee, I asked him, “Are you the smiley guy? I was supposed to find a smiley guy.” Katie's friend works here.

“Katie C?”
“No, don't know her.”

He turned to the ginger and asked, “You know a Katie C?”

He gave a smile

“You do! You're the smiley guy!” I said.

Yeah, he knew her.

I grabbed my coffee and stood awkwardly with my laptop on the side of a chest-high table, checking to see if Katie had written back. After 20 minutes, I found a place to sit, did some more writing, and finally grabbed my meal after realizing she was likely not coming.

As I was packing up to leave, I got a Facebook message.

She had been a meeting and would be there in 5-10 minutes.


She came, grabbed her lunch to go, and we set out for the University of Glasgow campus.

Yeah.. I really smell like a dog right now. This is foul. Humans beware.

On the walk, I found a steel T-pipe and liked it and carried it around..

The campus of the U of G (I never heard anyone refer to it as that, but I think it sounds fun – UG UG UG!) was splendid and very university-ish. I especially liked spending time in the Zoology hall and looking at all of the dead animals. She showed me the view at the flagpole.

I enjoy Katie.

I enjoy her wit and communicating with her. I enjoy her perspectives. I enjoyed being able to walk around with someone who could tell me about where I am. If you guys go to Glasgow, I highly recommend finding her (just ask the smiley guy at Naked Soup). She's doing/getting her PhD on MS research.

It was then time to make it to the Botanic Gardens.

I continued along the road, saying farewell to Katie.
I took in what I could of Glasgow.
Left a granola bar in a helmet.

And then, on the road, I ran into David. There he was across the street. How convenient.

Sure, we were going to be meeting about 32 minutes later in this part of town, but it was still an amusing collision.

This is where I get to decide where I want to take this blog post.

I could keep my writing limited to what we did or I could go into what actually happen. I could go into our conversations or I could go into what was going into my mind during them. I could write about hanging out in the grass and striding across town.


I've met blokes like David before.

I've had my entire being, all of Me, picked a part a few times this month by fellow travellers and hosts.

Some folks I ran into just skimmed over what I was doing and what had been. Some allowed me to spend the entire time gleaning information and stories from them.

And then, sometimes there were people like David.

He wasn't the first.
He won't be the last.

Crikey, I need to learn about emotional boundaries. I've heard about them, but I still don't get them. I tend to just be an open book. You ask and I'll answer the best I can.

He had done a solid job at cracking me open so he could observe what was going on in that head of mine. Only thing was, he didn't really have anything constructive to hand me back that first night he dug in. He just grabbed his pick-axe and started hacking away, nicely sandwiched between stories of his father. Later on, I learned he was quite aware of what he was doing.

In New York, this women I stayed with did a thorough job at dissecting me and laying out everything for observation. But, the great thing was that, through it, I learned a lot and she was able to explain things to me. See, that's the key – I learned a lot from her. It was applicable and, even if I didn't want to hear it all, it was good to hear.

David didn't exactly do that.
Ok, he didn't do that at all.

And he knew it. I eventually learned that part of the reason why he kept cracking me open further was because I reminded him a lot of his sister. He had told me that over and over, that I reminded him of his sister. Later on, he revealed that because of some sort of emotional baggage, he couldn't investigate her so he was using me which he acknowledged wasn't exactly admirable.

He further had realized the state he had left me in at the end of the night at the hostel. I was sick, exhausted, so without any sort of summing up, the conversation ended. He had done his research and left the specimen, reeking of formaldehyde, on the lab table.

He realized what he had done and and wanted to make sure I was ok. I forget exactly how he put it – but it was very strong along those lines. He was checking up on me.

Luckily (or maybe not luckily), I've met enough people that who do things like that, after that conversation ended, I was fine. Sure, I'd been cracked open, but I was like a self-healing cutting board and was absolutely fine. Genuinely. It was nice to have a conversation that went beyond “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?”

I'm used to guys like him. The ones that frequently use conversation, manipulating it to perhaps make you feel like there's some sort of extraordinary connection. He said he'd encountered this a few times. He would have conversations like this (except for not “like this” because I'm "different") and the girl, at the end, would think they had somehow cracked him open and that there was something deep between them and she'd fall for him and he'd be still standing, emotionally distant.

But, through the worst kind of conditioning, I've learned to keep my emotions in a nice box and to not let them out. Not saying I don't feel a wide range of emotions and express them. These are specific emotions I'm referring to. I think I was meaning to say that I just don't let myself become emotionally attached to the other other folks any more ('cept a few super safe folks I can think of, and that's a different sort of attachment than is widely referred to). Some of the people, lasses and lads alike, I've let in the closest have done enough damage that I don't feel like going there again. I probably ought not use closest as an analogy since they are already widely accepted to have another specific symbolic meaning.

I used to be like “those girls” David was referring to, the ones that fall easily, and, if he had caught me a bit earlier in life, I likely would've followed their pattern. I used to think conversations like that might mean something. Not any more. Now, they're just conversations. Nice conversations, yes, but I've already written it out in my mind that it means nothing to the other human. They can take what they like and move on. I never expect them to stick around. They don't. Individual attention is nothing more than the conversation that happens.

Not matter how close we get, emotionally or physically, it matters nothing to them. After realizing that, I choose between either not getting close in the first place or keeping my emotions from getting involved when we do. I tend to lean towards not getting close in the first place except with the small pocket of safe humans I've accumulated.

Yeah, I have a few issues to work out but, for now, I consider it self preservation.
Pardon the ambiguity and if this is getting hard to follow, at this point.

Did I loose you by this point?
I'm not keen on finishing.

We spent the rest of the day and evening together. At one point, I had been broken down again to the point where all I needed was a hug. He found the rawest nerve, poked it, and carried on.

We went to the Bright Club which was a comedy show of PhD students. Lots of laugh about as they weaved together stories and lessons from their studies.

The End

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