Friday, January 20, 2012

Pieces of Tartan (Part Two): Faces and Landings

Sometimes faces are nice to place next to the names, so here’s a photo of the group of people that I traveled with:

In the front row, on the left, is Doug. Doug was, for all intents and purposes, the leading actor in the troupe. With his long hair and blue eyes, coupled with his commanding, theatrical voice, he could certainly play the part. Oh yes, one other thing: he was completely and utterly full of himself.

Sitting next to Doug is Viola. Viola was probably the most talented of our lot, and ended up, about a decade later, winning a Tony award, as well as a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award. At the time, however, she was just a very promising college student.

In the second row, to the left, is Melissa. I don’t think Melissa became an award-winning actress, but she certainly became my best friend during this trip.

Standing in the center is Reo, who was our stage manager. She was a master of the duct tape, and probably kept the fragile balance of our increasingly divisive group all taped together, too.

Next to Reo is Margot, a Shakespearian-trained actress who served as an older aunt—not the crazy one with odd tics that every family has, but the one that everyone likes and ends up confiding in. She appeared in the Witches of Eastwick, and other films, but her best work has been on the stage.

The role of the crazy aunt was played by...oh, what shall I call her? Let's call her Tallulah Tulip. She's not pictured in this photo, but you’ll hear lots about her in this story. Think of her as an aging thespian fast approaching the road to Sunset Boulevard.

Finally, the last two people mentioned in the story are Bill (who I called "Doc," back then) and Jeri. Both have appeared in my journal on a few occasions, with his wife, Jeri. Bill served as director and producer of the production. Jeri often served (and continues to serve) as our much-needed voice of reason.

There they are! Commit them to memory, place the photo next to rest of the story, because now it’s time to step back about twenty years, to August 1989, as I open up the musty confines of a journal that’s lived inside a box for two decades, that tells the story of my hijinks and adventures at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Tuesday, August 8, 1989

I’m in London, now—and, I still have my job (at least, for now). I can’t believe that one, especially since I told Andrew one hour before closing on Friday. For some reason, he was okay about it. Slightly pissed, but what could he do? Well, he could actually do a lot, but chose not to. I'm not sure why he didn't, either.

The day after I dropped the E-bomb on Andrew, Josie and I had a wedding to go to, and spent the night in a hotel with Annie, outside of Providence. Monday night, the two of us went to Boston, and had a fun, sad, sexy, wonderful, really romantic evening, just being together, caressing, making love in the shower and in bed...I was very sad to have to say good-bye to her at seven the next morning. I was almost crying.

And now, here I am, in London, exhausted from a day spent up in the air. I arrived here at 10:00. The walk with the luggage left me sweating bullets! WHAT A GAS! Now, if only I knew what the hell I was spending...this currency has gotten me all sorts of confused.

Wednesday, August 9, 1989
Had a great day of sun and sin in the city of London.

Sounds provacative, eh? I can just imagine my children reading that someday, after I'm dead and buried, and wondering what the hell I had going on in my hotel room. Pimps, hoes...clowns?

Truth is, however, that it's a complete, silly exaggeration. Despite the skimpy entry, I clearly remember that day, which was basically spent walking around the center of London. My hotel was in the theater district, directly across from the Piccadilly Theater. At the time, the Piccadilly was home to a musical version of the Fritz Lang’s classic early movie Metropolis , and the neon sign for the show was directly across my hotel room. That sign blinked, on and off, all night long.

It was a muggy summer day, and rather than checking out what the London theater scene had to offer, I spent the day walking through some of the seedier sections of the city. No museums or art galleries for this boy. There was an adult movie theater that was showing five different features, with lurid titles such as "Sword of the Stud" and "Every Inch a Man."

I remember passing by that theater at least twenty times, fascinated, trying to summon up the courage to walk inside. Instead, I settled for buying some lousy dirty magazine in a porno shop and high-tailing it to my hotel room, lest anyone try to approach me. The magazine, as I recall, ended up being extremely disappointing.

So much for my day of "sun and sin."

One thing I also remember is being a bit confused by some of the cultural changes. For example, at the time, I was wearing hard contacts that had to be sterilized each night by heat. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of the fact that the wattage in England is different from that in America, which blew out my heating system and left me with fried lenses in the morning. Vain creature that I was, I stubbornly insisted on wearing them for the remainder of the trip, although I did not sterilize them once after that. Fortunately, I'm happy to repoprt that I still have eyeballs.

Another problem I had was with the bathrooms. The hotel I was staying at did not have bathrooms in the rooms. Instead, you were instructed to call the front desk, should you wish to have someone draw your bath for you. I misread this to mean that I had to contact the front desk every time you wished to use the bathroom, and couldn’t understand why the attendants kept asking me whether I wanted access to the tubs.

Okay, okay...I know...I was an extremely stupid wanker back then...and not really very sinful, either...

Thursday, August 10, 1989

Today started off terribly. I woke up at 6:30 in the morning and dragged all my stuff to Gatwick airport, to meet up with the group at 8:30.

However, one small problem: Doc never told me exactly where I was supposed to meet them. So, after arriving at the airport and searching around for ninety minutes, I finally gave up, and called Harold Eastman, our contact with Edinburgh, to see what I could do. He told me they had waited for me for around for forty minutes and then left, by bus.

So, what was I to do? Harold said that I could either take a bus from there or go back to London for a train. Of course, I discovered that the buses were all booked, so I was forced to trudge back to London and charge yet another bill to my father’s battered credit card.

Fortunately, things started to pick up from there. The train ride from London to Edinburgh turned out to be a wonderful experience. I sat across from a very handsome Italian soccer player who spent the trip with his eyes closed and a walkman over his ears. It was all I could do not to try and play footsy with him, but I managed to maintain control. The scenery—I mean, the scenery outside the train, was also gorgeous, except for when we passed through Glasgow.

As it turned out, I arrived three hours earlier than the others, and spent the free time having lunch at a wonderful Italian restaurant, and ordering a pint of ale to go with it.

After lunch, I traveled to the Performer’s center to catch up with the others, and met up with Harold’s assistant, Aleister. He’s wonderful. About twenty-two, with dirty blond hair and soft brown eyes. He tells great stories, non-stop, and has a great sense of cheer that’s infectious.

The others all arrived at the Performer’s center at 9:00, and were clearly tired and grumpy. They were, frankly, unbearable at that point, but thankfully, Aleister was able to move them into a restaurant and, once their bellies were filled, move us into our flat.

I love writing that we're staying in a flat. It sounds so much classier than "an apartment." Except for Doc and Jeri, and Miss Talullah, the rest of us are all staying in a three bedroom flat in the center of Edinburgh.

Doug immediately claimed the living room, and I staked out a small bedroom. Margot and Reo shared the master bedroom, while Viola and Melissa shared the final room.

After placing our luggage in our quarters, we all gathered back in the living room. Aleister was still there, and out of nowhere, walked over to the piano in the room and began playing "Song for a Guy," which took me aback, because I had been listening to that exact same song on the train ride to Edinburgh. It seemed odd to me that he should choose this song, which came from an Elton John album called "A Single Man" over a decade before.

At the time I was a huge Elton fanatic, and this song was one that I had played, over and over, for days, especially during the flight, because it was so relaxing.

That was the first of several weird connections that happened today. They almost felt like signs. In addition to "Song for Guy," when I started to snoop around the apartment (which of course I was bound to do), the first book that I opened up turned out to be a university book on Expressionistic art—an exact copy of which I had been thumbing through at a friend’s house the day before I flew to Scotland.

Strangest of all, the Water Closet in the flat has photos taped to the door of the two owners. One of them is my spitting image. Seriously. The guy could be my twin! It was weird, staring at the photo. I had half a mind to steal it and bring it back home with me.

Three minor connections, I suppose, but a nice way to start out my stay in Scotland—a nice sort of welcome, I think.

We spent the night talking excitedly, and making plans for the next day. At midnight, Viola announced that it was officially her birthday, and everyone cheered. Aleister walked over to her and gave her a big kiss on the lips. I think he’s a bit fond of her! I went to bed feeling much happier than I had that morning.

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