Posts Tagged ‘drinking’

Doing the Right Thing and Hating It

March 17, 2008

As St. Patrick’s day arrives, I’m reminded of one year ago today when I was in a Main Street bar not too far from here.  I’d been stopping in for a month or two to watch the Canucks games and have a few beers.  There was a beautiful server who had caught my eye.

I found myself looking in her direction.  I’m sure she noticed.  We talked a little every time I saw her.  I complimented her every time, telling her she looked beautiful.  She didn’t seem to mind, despite having a boyfriend.  In fact, I think she liked it.  She even thanked me for the encouragement when I made what I thought was a pretty ordinary comment about her career ambitions.

Another great thing about her – as I watched her talking to a co-worker at the end of the bar, I saw her doing the same crank up the middle finger thing that I’ve been known to do.  Others have done it, of course, but I was the first.  I stole it from Tom Waits in ‘Rumble Fish’ before them.  Obviously, we thought alike.

On that St. Patrick’s day she looked extra good.  She wore a green patterned halter style top, her loose blond curls tied up with a stick or pencil through them.  Every time she turned her back to me to enter her orders on the computer terminal, I admired her delicate back.  There were two exquisite dimples near her shoulder blades.  I couldn’t help looking.  They were too beautiful and fascinating.

On my way to the washroom, I stopped at the terminal and told her she had these exquisite dimples in her back.  Worried that this latest in a growing line of compliments may have been too much, I said, “Sorry, am I embarrassing you?”  “No, you’re OK”, she replied.  She clearly appreciated being appreciated.

I don’t know if she didn’t hear them enough, or even at all, but one night she responded to my compliment by saying something like, “I’ve never really thought of myself as being beautiful.”  Shocked at her modesty, I asked “Why not?”  She replied, “I don’t know, I just don’t.”

Some time after the Canucks’ playoffs came to an end, I was in the bar again and had one or two more than usual.  As I was leaving, I came across her sitting outside, her shift over.  We spoke a little, as usual.  In my case I spoke a little too much.  When she got up to go back inside, we hugged and I said something I shouldn’t have.  Then I kissed her on the cheek.  Again, if she minded, she didn’t show it.  She may even have subtly pulled herself closer.  It doesn’t matter.  Compliments are one thing, but I crossed the line.  You don’t mess with another man’s woman.  “I’ll see you real soon”, she said, and went inside.

If something is alright for you to do, it’s alright for everyone to do.  Otherwise, you place yourself above everyone else.  If we all just took what we wanted, we could also have anything taken from us and we’d have no right to complain.  That’s no way to live.

I did the right thing and stayed away.  There has been no reward, in kind or otherwise.  No positive ‘karma’ has come my way, and don’t even think about telling me my reward will be in ‘heaven’.  If any good came of it, it was an infinitesimal increment in collective co-operation.  One more person tried to do the right thing.

Maybe she was interested, too.  Maybe if I’d persisted she could have been mine.  Maybe she was unhappy, or not happy enough, with her boyfriend.  Maybe she continued living with him for security or financial reasons, even though she hoped for something better.  Maybe she was afraid to live alone.  I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter.  I did the right thing, and hate it, but the right thing has to be done.

Sometimes I wish I was more selfish.

Less Than Humble Beginnings

January 4, 2008

They say a new year is a new beginning and this one has me thinking of my first beginning.  On New Years Eve I met a woman from the Scottish town where I was born, who happened to be standing next to another woman from the Canadian city I grew up in.

I was in the Cascade, a fairly new pub-eatery with a friendly enough vibe on Main Street here in Vancouver, where I exist.  She was asking about Absinthe.  Do they have it?  Is it the real stuff, like she’d had in Budapest, or the imitation?  I pointed out the two bottles behind the bar and that one looked like the stuff I’d had in Prague, which was unavailable in the west at the time.  I asked her what part of Scotland she was from, cleverly deducing that she was by her accent, and she said “Cumbernauld”.  Well, what a coincidence – that’s where I was born.  Apparently, Craig Kilborn, of Late Late Show fame, was too.  Or his mother was – I can’t remember, there was alcohol involved.

We talked some more and, as it turned out, she’d not only lived not far from the house I was born in, she had also lived in the Maryhill district of Glasgow, where relatives of mine lived.  Pleasantries aside, she then told me how lucky I was not to have grown up in Scotland in general, and Cumbernauld in particular.  If I’d grown up in Scotland, I would probably be an alcoholic, drinking whiskey for lunch, she said.  I recalled stories of visiting relatives for her, in which I was hospitably fed whiskey like it was beer.

She would later say something that reminded me of another unpleasant aspect of life in Scotland.  She asked about my religious origins, making an assumption on my name.  Apparently, in Scotland, people can, and do, guess your religion based on your given name and treat you accordingly.  This is just one aspect of the religious divide there, particularly in Glasgow, where soccer violence has been fuelled by religious affiliation.  The two rival teams – Celtic and Rangers – deliberately encouraged this to build fan support, thus profiting from religious hatred and violence.  I let her know that I rejected all religion as nonsense.

But Cumbernauld, she said, was a bad place within a bad environment.  In fact, it was a bad idea.  A great place to get raped, I think is how she put it.  With pedestrian underpasses replacing crosswalks, it seemed designed for crime.  All part of the ‘new concept’ design of the time.  The lack of foresight is astounding.  Even a child would instinctively know they were a bad idea.  My sister may be the proof.  I’m told her claim to fame is that she was the first person to be hit by a car in Cumbernauld, a town designed to prevent people getting hit by cars.  Probably thinking, “That tunnel looks scary”, the little girl crossed the road instead.  The driver of the car, probably not expecting a child to be crossing the road because he would have been led to believe there wouldn’t be any, hit her.  So, this ‘people friendly’ design actually seems to have been more car friendly, as it kept traffic moving, and put people at greater risk by creating a criminal friendly environment.  Maybe the drugs really were stronger in the old days.

Curiosity led me to visit Cumbernauld, once.  During a visit to Glasgow, where I drank much whiskey, I decided to go see the place of my birth.  For anyone who has never heard of it, Cumbernauld is one of five new towns built in Britain after the second world war.  Others include Eastkilbride, also in Scotland and home of postpunk pop band The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Milton Keynes, in England, which has a reputation for being rather dull.  Anyway, after waiting at least an hour for my connecting bus, I finally got there.  The driver, who had clearly been in no mood to explain the delay earlier, dropped me off at what I initially assumed must have been the wrong place.

Most cities and towns are established and grow in a location for a reason – there’s a good harbour, a river, or a useful resource or good farm land nearby.  Cumbernauld doesn’t appear to have any of these.  It sits in the middle of central Scotland, roughly at the centre of the triangle created by Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Stirling, but not close enough to any of them to be considered a suburb.  I could be wrong, but there doesn’t appear to be any water nearby.  If the land surrounding it is arable, it seemed it wasn’t being farmed.  I know this because the place I was dropped off by the side of the road was also beside open land, empty except for a power pylon near a hill.  On the other side of the road were buildings.  So there it was, in the middle of nowhere with no apparent purpose.

I looked at a map and found I was not only not in the wrong place, I was actually near the street I was born on.  It was just on the other side of the road which, as it turned out, was the main road.  To create the people friendly town that wasn’t actually very people friendly, it seems to have been designed with the main road going around the town rather than through it.  Now there’s a way to create a vibrant, people friendly atmosphere.  I left the emptiness of the main artery and walked into town.  One street in I turned into Lennox Road, walked a short distance and found it.  The house I was born in was a little pebble covered townhouse, identical to all the others around it.  A bit dreary, really, and hardly worth the pilgrimage.  Be careful what you look for, you might find it.  I came, I saw, I left.

This trip planted an idea in my mind that was confirmed on New Years Eve by the woman I met.  I am the product of a failed, terribly misguided social experiment.  This explains a lot.  But, on the bright side, look what it did for Craig Kilborn.  Alchemy?

As for the other woman, we agreed that Windsor is a place people come from.  More about that fabulous metropolis will no doubt come.  In case you’re really wondering, one is married and the other has a boyfriend so, no, I didn’t get my tongue down either throat.  However, it may come as no surprise that the Scottish woman is the one who stood on the bench against the wall and counted down the new year for everyone.