Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On the Fringe

This week I have queued behind medieval wenches at Tesco and brushed past vampires while walking through the Meadows. Edinburgh is an exciting literary city full of as many sordid stories and horrible histories as there are cobblestones, but it's not usually this interesting. Before you worry that you've missed your Hogwarts letter and Edinburgh actually is a city of witches and wizards, I must clarify that I arrived in the city during the last few days of the Festival.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is perhaps what the city is most famous for after Sir Walter Scott and all those coffeehouses J.K. Rowling supposedly wrote in. This is because it's the world's largest arts festival. "Arts" is a vague term and with the Fringe it can mean anything from classic theater to stand up to burlesque. It coincides with the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo Festival (the reason my family vacationed in Scotland six years ago) and the Book Festival. What this means for tourists and students willing to go broke before the school year even starts is more art performed in three weeks than can be written in a year and pubs open until at least 3am. What this means for Edinburgh locals is being walked into by strangers and hearing the screeching of bagpipes more than usual.

The energy of the Festival could power all of Scotland, although it's a manic depressive energy. You might as well get caught up in the literal hustle and bustle on the Royal Mile and find yourself carried off to a comedy show. The Fringe creates a lot of "you had to be there" moments. I don't even want to know why there is a hot pink flyer on my flat's bulletin board that says, "Spank!" At the same time, your eyes get tired of the neon posters plastered all over town. The Meadows looks like a five-year-old who had too much candy threw all up over it. By the time I arrived, most of my friends who survived the Festival were as burnt out as the lightbulbs in my flat.

A collection of the WORST Fringe posters:

When I wrote in my last post that I boarded a plane last Thursday for the start of my senior year, I lied. Classes don't start for three weeks, I was desperate to see at least part of the mythical Festival, only to be believed if experienced.

[The Tattoo stage and where I will be seeing Arcade Fire later this week.]

[Typical terrible weather reminding you why Brits live in their trench coats.]

The Fringe lends itself to many cheesy puns that I can't help but love and put in the title of this post and they are all accurate descriptors of the event:

People who are "on the fringe" are the ticket vendors who have lost all shreds of sanity dealing with tacky tourists and their inane questions. I was assumed to be just another tourist when I asked in my American accent if I could buy David O'Doherty (an Irish comedian) tickets at Potterow, only to get a snarky reply that, "I could if they weren't sold out already." Ah, Scottish customer service, in which the customer is not always right, but probably an idiot.

There are many "fringe benefits" however like the Book Festival. Stand up makes me feel awkward, but hearing authors speak excites me more than when Gatsby hears the cookie jar open. There's something more exhilarating (frequent Book Festival chair and Scottish literature critic, Stuart Kelly's favorite word) about listening to A.S. Byatt lecture you about morbid Norse mythology than a professor doing the same. There was something about the Book Festival that was utterly inviting, whether it was the kind cashiers who dealt with my inability to properly read a schedule or the aforementioned Stuart Kelly's ability to wear three pieces suits and drum up enthusiasm even for the most pessimistic authors, I felt at home there. It was the type of home where random relatives you've never met before show up and tell stories like Byatt and Geoff Dyer, the two authors I snagged tickets to. I have never read either, but promptly bought Byatt's book after her event and geeked out with my friend Amy over how awesome it would be to make a career as an essayist like Dyer does. I could gladly live at the Book Festival and wish I had seen more (I can't believe I missed the million Neil Gaiman events), but my two days there were just the kick in the pants I needed to start the new academic year.

[Thank you to this teenager for photobombing what otherwise would've been a very dull photo of tents. Notice the author portraits in the background, there's Neil Gaiman and Audrey Niffenegger looking ridiculous.]

The Festival is over sadly, but it's still raining. Edinburgh isn't Hogwarts, but the Festival proves it has its own magic.
[Can I steal one for my new living room?]

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back to the 'Burgh

Tomorrow I will be flying back to college for my senior year. You would be correct to assume that gray stone pictured here cannot be found in Washington D.C. Instead its in Edinburgh's New Town. These photos were taken all the way back in October of 2010, when I will still acclimating to single glazed windows and realizing that a shot of whiskey was more likely to keep me warm than my radiator. By late December, the snow hadn't melted, but I warmed up to Edinburgh. The University welcomed me with open arms even if I was forced to call papers "essays". I had friends to enjoy that whiskey with in the local pubs. Even if I couldn't find half&half in Tesco, Edinburgh felt like home. When I returned to my real home in Minnesota for the holiday break, I knew I wanted to stay in Edinburgh for as long as possible. After determining whether it was possible to graduate from the University of Edinburgh on time (due to my extreme geekiness in taking an abundance of English literature courses at any university I attend, it was), I knew I had already made my decision. Edinburgh officially made their decision after I passed all of my exams. Hence my boarding pass tomorrow says Edinburgh and not DC as its final destination. Although I will miss my enthusiastic professors back at the GW English Department and all the opportunities they have given me, my sarcastic friends who will hunt down the perfect cupcake from Baked & Wired with me, and killing a slow afternoon with a stop at a Smithsonian museum- I know transferring to the University of Edinburgh is the right choice. In just my junior (or third) year: I joined the Literature Society to insure I had people to argue about books with regardless of whether I was in class or not and to meet some of my closest friends. I also started editing for the film section of The Student (the University's student newspaper) which gave me more than just free films, clippings, and something to add to my resume, but a thriving social network including some of the most fun people I know. I made friends with people from Germany, Austria, Australia, France, Canada, Italy, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, etc. I debated with professors in my lectures about everything from Catcher in the Rye to The Alchemist. I sipped lattes at 25 cafes, drank at 23 pubs, and ate at 8 restaurants. Most importantly, I honed my sardonic sense of humor.
But my time in Edinburgh is more than just lists of everyone I've met and everywhere I've eaten (although they are good incentives for visiting the city), it's a place of opportunity. For a girl who appreciates the idea of running into authors over politicians (I literally walked into Ian Rankin once. I only realized this after my friend said, "That was Ian, you know."), Edinburgh is the place to be. I've never felt like I fit into an environment so well. It's not perfect nor a panacea to my occasional DC apathy, but if I can spend an extra year there, why not?

What this means for you is that I will be keeping this blog up. Expect more rants about the wind, snarky observations on my travels (Ich reise im September), and modern day still lifes (or excuses for me to try even more cafes this semester). I can't wait to see what happens this year. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 19, 2011

ACK Attack

[Donuts delivered with attitude.]

I left Nantucket last Saturday, red, well-read, and rolled. Let me deconstruct that alliteration for you. I was punished for my Scottish pastiness with some sunburn, made all the worse by the attack of some stealth mini jellyfish lurking the ocean one day. When I wasn't being stung by jellyfish at the beach, I read five novels, some terrific (Ben Loory's whimsical and witty Stories for Nighttime and Some for Day) and some trite (Glen Duncan's arrogant and overwritten The Last Werewolf). And true to my klutzy nature, I rolled my foot in our rental house's uneven driveway while wearing my "glamorous" heeled espadrilles from Barcelona. This week you can find me limping around with a scrape on my knee befitting for a five-year-old.

[When not being used as a Unitarian Church, you can hear opera singers practicing.]

I'm not the only one who knows how to make leisure difficult. My fellow vacationers were worse for the wear:

Overheard in the ice cream line: "I'm ready to go back to work. I'd stay here longer if I could work." This man clearly does not understand the point of a vacation.
Watching people cut pedestrians off on the street so they could run to their 9:30am yoga class. Isn't yoga meant to be relaxing?

Almost having to run over a man in the Stop & Shop parking lot because he was blocking the spot with his bike so his wife could get it. Getting food for your picnic lunch on the beach is like trying to get the prime spot at the watering hole, it gets ugly.

Pretending you're the effortlessly cool guy who can ride a moped is all the rage on Nantucket. However, trying to ride the thing down to the beach doesn't involve enough effort as we watched some guy go too slowly through the sand causing the bike to topple. He was fine, but lost his cool and turned right back around.Watching a woman at the nearby dinner table take the lime that came with her lobster and squeeze it into her water.

Ordering an eggcream at the drugstore soda fountain, only to have the sodajerk ask me why. I dunno, I didn't invent these oddball New England drinks!
Feeling left out because I didn't have a Northface windbreaker on our first rainy day. Even the priest was stylish, wearing one in black of course.

Hearing a woman tell her son that if he didn't stop pinching his sister in the ice cream line, the wafflecone witch would come and get him. He looked at the wafflecones in fear after that.
All of the above is a good example of East Coast aggression, how I've NOT missed it even if it does make for good comedy.

[Even though we were only on the island for six days, I had the daily cupcake schedule memorized by day two. Scary!]

This is my last post about Nantucket. If you didn't already gather, I had a hard enough time reapplying sunscreen consistently, let alone taking photos. This is the mark of a good vacation, despite the occasional injury.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In Living Color

When you return from vacation everything looks a little brighter and tastes a little sweeter. Perhaps this is because you've spent too much time staring into the sun on the beach and oversaturating your tastebuds with sugary ice cream, but nevertheless it leaves everything in a delightful little haze. After spending a week on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts with my family, I find it hard to return to routine. How can I, when I still find sand tumbling out of my shoes and skin turning red to the touch from more sun than my Scottish-acclimated skin could handle?

To demonstrate the pleasant fog that is returning to reality after a week of doing nothing more than reading with the Atlantic's waves as your soundtrack, I decided to post some photos that are more abstract than usual. For the Malone family, going to Nantucket is not about soaking up the local history rich in whaling or doing activities more arduous than carrying a cooler down to the beach, so I can't pepper this post with factoids and anecdotes about sightseeing mishaps. Instead I thought I'd show you the details of Nantucket via the rainbow.
So without further ado, Nantucket in colors!

As soon as I get my brain back from vacation mode, I promise to caption these photos with some sardonic observations. We may have been relaxed, but I can't say the same for the rest of the islands inhabitants. After all, we were on the East Coast, where parking at the grocery store is like combat.