Sunday, February 15, 2009

I Have Seen Hell, and Its Number Is 710

I have a real project that I am working on, and if I feel better later on I may get it posted. As it is I woke up with a vicodin grade headache, and applied vicodin. I'm a little numb right now. But it beats pain. Sort of.

My brother's ladyfriend is a wonderfully generous woman. She bought us tickets for a Scottish festival that was held at the Queen Mary ocean liner turned hotel and festival venue in Long Beach, CA.

Now, as far as I can determine, I am of pure Scottish ancestry and, while I'm not fanatical about it, I do have an affinity for all things Celtic. Nonetheless, these festival things are, to put it generously, boring. It is interesting to find myself in a crowd with whom I share some ethnic identity. Or, to put it in simpler terms- with a whole mess of folks who look like me hanging out in one place.

And it's pretty much what you'd expect. Lots of fair skin, and blue eyes. Lots of kilts. Lots of plaid. Maps of Scotland where you can determine where your own bloodthirsty tribe of warriors were busy killing off other equally bloodthirsty Celts. You can buy a sword if you want one. The food is awful. There's a reason you don't see Scottish fast food joints on every corner. And the one world class thing that they do make is off limits. Don't even get any single malt in my bloodstream, or I instantly morph into... well you can figure.

Scottish games are singularly unimaginative. Throw a rock over a rope. Throw a telephone pole. Like the food, there's a reason this stuff never quite captured the national imagination.

But they do have the bagpipes. There's a mess of bagpipes, and I really do like them. And the pipes MUST be heard live. They just don't translate to any medium of reproduction. We got to hear a group that had come from Albany New York to play at this thing. They made the drive down to Long Beach almost worth it.


They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Wrong. The road to hell is hell, and it's called the 710 freeway. This is the road that leads from the port of Long Beach up into the mid city snarl of Los Angeles. It's a maniacal speedway, cracked and shattered by the constant onslaught of tractor trailers hauling all of the Southwest's imports to market. Hate bumper to bumper traffic? Try it at 75 mph, where making a lane change is like crossing the railroad tracks by jumping between two speeding boxcars. We had our obligatory near death encounter as some trucker, doubtless low on methamphetamine, decided to join the parade a little late. I had exactly enough time to look in the sideview, determine that I had about six feet of clearance in front of the car in the lane to my left, and make the life saving swerve. I'm sure that that poor slob continued his trip on a wet, and sticky seat. Those kinds of encounters take some time to sink in. It wasn't until we were off the freeway, and safely parked in the parking structure back at Huntington Beach that this one hit home. I damn near french kissed the concrete.

But it was Valentines day, and that meant going to a nice restaurant with my wife. The pierside places were reserved to the last table, and besides. I can't afford them. But there is a great Mediterranean place on Main Street. Mary, no doubt grateful to be alive, had two big burgundies. I couldn't seem to get enough coffee to calm me down (I wonder why?) Hence the migraine level headache this morning. So, as I said, I'm going to doze for a while, and maybe get the first part of the real project on line later today. Or tomorrow. We'll see.


julie said...

In this case, the road to hell is paved with what's left of your tax dollars after other "obligations" are met. I'm glad you guys made it through the gauntlet in one automotive piece!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hope yer feelin' better, John.
I like that sentence: the road to hell is hell! Cracked me up, man. :^)

You're right about bagpipes. I heard Amazing Grace once at a military funeral, I was an honor guard, and wow! Did that bring the waterworks.

Sal said...

glad you made it out alive.
Some soccer player, asked if he ever thought about moving back to Scotland, said "Sometimes. But then I just drink a warm beer under a cold shower and I get over it."

My own take on Anglo-Celtic-Hibernian ancestry: skin like a rose petal, mouth full of implants.