July 2019

Last Sunday was Bastille Day in New York City.

The Alliance Francais closed 60th Street from Lexington Avenue to Fifth Avenue and the rue was packed with food stalls and clothing booths and mimes and tourist info stalls, and New Yorkers.

Business was brisk at the marinière stall:

The marinière was adopted by the French Navy in 1858 as part of its uniform for sailors. The stripes on the shirt were supposed to make it easier to spot men that had gone overboard. The shirt is also known as a Breton shirt because, in the 19th century, a lot of sailors came from Brittany.

Speaking of Brittany, there was a crepe stall:

That’s the flag of Brittany in the background.

I liked the Asian girl in the patisserie stall who had two little French flags waving from her chignon:

It was stinking hot and crowded like crazy so Top Cat and I strolled through the block party once, bought a bottle of organic salad olive oil from a town near Carcassonne, and headed back home.

We took the Stromness Rock with us:

In Penn Station (Long Island Rail Road, etc.).

 

On the E train (subway).

 

Lexington Avenue at 53rd Street (Citicorp).

That is Top Cat’s hand in every frame, holding the Stromness Rock while I snap the photo.

So, yes, Top Cat and I are still together and still hanging out with each other, doing fun stuff, just like the olden days. The Battle of Scotland is behind us because we work at our marriage, or whatever. As a couple, we concentrate on not hating each other for too long a time.

I have always wanted to punch someone in the mouth whenever it has been said to me (back in the really olden days, when we were all young and newly-partnered and hashing out the “happily ever after part” of our lives) that “Marriage takes work.” 

What a stupid thing to say. Does that statement have any information in it? Tell me, what is the work you’re supposed to do in a marriage? Is it so very different from any other kind of work that you have to do to be a kind, thoughtful, caring person in the world? Is marriage work more magical?  If so, what the fuck is it???

Also, I hate work.

So when someone was stupid enough to give me that line about marriage takes work,  this is what I used to do instead of socking that someone right in the kisser: I used to stop the conversation and say, “Say that again, only this time don’t use the word work. Tell me, Marriage takes ________ (fill in the blank).” In other words, use a different word to tell me what it takes to keep two people in an intimate, close, time-consuming relationship from killing each other.

I can not remember a single time that someone was able to fill in the blank.

Worthandwisdom.com, Go fuck yourself.

Getting back to the topic at hand, you all know that I’ve been reporting on a harrowing ten days that Top Cat and I endured in each other’s company in Scotland. As you know, it was awful. Top Cat and I loathed each other for hours and days and days at a time.

A lot of you, Dear Readers, have emailed me with your gratitude for what I have written about our conflict because my story made some of you feel better, feel relief, feel consoled, and/or feel less guilty about the times that your own Significant Other, love of your life, Dearly Beloved has driven you desperately bat-shit crazy.

First of all, You’re Welcome.

Second, I can report about the fits and tiffs and sulks and murderous impulses that I experienced while I was in Scotland with Top Cat because I speak about it all from a safe place. My connection with Top Cat — the legal, emotional, and historical connection that we have — is solid. Even when it gets rocky, it is solid. I know that, and he knows that. (Well, I mostly know that. Nothing is 100% knowable, right?)

And I’m going to tell you the way that Top Cat and I repaired the huge break in our relationship was not work. It was this:

After Top Cat and I had had several attempts at having a good talk about what went wrong in Scotland, we found that we kept talking in circles. I would ask him, Why did you make us miss the bus in Edinburgh? (That incident on the streets of Edinburgh is what started everything that went downhill.)

And he would answer: I didn’t think we had to hurry; I would never thought that the driver would take off without us; I wasn’t trying to make us miss the bus, etc. And then he would say, Why do you keep asking me this??? Why do we have to talk about this again???

One night, me and half a bottle of pinot grigio were sitting out on the patio feeling aggrieved, as usual, at the end of one of these circular conversations, and I had a Hallejula moment. What I realized was that every time I asked Top Cat, Why did you make us miss the bus in Edinburgh? I had been asking the wrong question. And as long as I kept asking the wrong question, all of Top Cat’s answers were going to be wrong also. No wonder we kept talking in circles.

And I suddenly understood what the right question was.

The right question was simple, but it wasn’t going to be easy to ask. Asking the right question was going to make me vulnerable, and feeling vulnerable is as horrifying to me as throwing up on myself in public.

But I knew that I was not going to repair this break in our relationship unless I asked the right question no matter how much I’d rather be tough and not so ruffled-kitchen-curtain-girly. So I gathered my courage and drank the rest of my wine. The next day, I sat down with Top Cat and I explained that I wanted to talk about Scotland again, but this time I wanted to ask him something I’ve never asked him before. He said, OK, let’s hear it.

And I asked: Why don’t you love me enough to walk fast with me so I don’t have to worry about catching the bus in Edinburgh? Follow up question: Why don’t you love me enough to do what you can to ease my ocassional anxiety especially when what you have to do is such a small thing and I need it so rarely?

Top Cat sat back in his chair and thought for half a second (a long time) and he said, “That is a very valid question.”

And that was the exact right answer. NOW we can talk.

And we did, and it was wonderful, and that’s why I love my Top Cat.

All it took was thinking about what my true and deep feelings were, and being brave enough to ask the right question that was based on those true and deep feelings. That’s not work; that’s just awareness. Oh, and sitting out on your patio with half a bottle of pinot grigio, and that is certainly not work.

So let’s now talk about The Stromness Rock.

THANK YOU all you marvelous Dear Readers!

Rachel, Christine, Carol, Amy, Marilyn, Susie, Jeanie, Thea, Alex, Maryanne, Leslie, and Angel!

I have an itinerary for The Rock, and it’s going to go around America clockwise, starting in Virginia. Then: South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Washington (state), Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.

I will be contacting you this coming week for your addresses (you’re all on the ChrisHanuKwanSolstice list!), and I’ll pack The Rock and its passport and instructions for posting pix, and we’ll get this tour started. I hope to have it back here on Long Island in time for Fall foliage before I send it back to Orkney, where it will have oh, so many stories to tell.

This weekend, for example, The Stromness Rock will be experiencing a hot spell here on The Isle of Long that they will not believe up there, in the isles of The North Sea. The USA National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for noon though 10 p.m. Saturday, when temperatures will hit 96 degrees and which our very high humidity will give us a heat index of 105 degrees. *cough climate change*

Same on Sunday. *cough catastrophic climate change*

I’ll be making sure that the herd stays cool . . .

. . . by making them stay inside in the basement, where it’s always wine-cellar-cool. Seriously. Top Cat has his wine cellar down there, and this weekend we’ll turn it into our Cat Cellar.

Ha ha.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. What a weekend this will be! July 20: Let’s remember where we all were when we watched Neil Armstrong take one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind, when it was the first time humans had seen our beautiful, fragile, life-giving, wrecked, doomed, home planet like this:

1969 Earthrise over the moon’s surface. Photo credit: USgov.

I love you, Earth. It was nice knowing you.

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Inverness to Glasgow.

It’s a mere 168 miles. Drive time under 4 hours. That’s like driving from New York City to Baltimore, a trip that Top Cat and I have made about a dozen times. 168 miles. Easy, right? Right?

This is what the road looks like between New York City and Baltimore:

OK, so Scotland is not the USA; they don’t make 12-lane turnpikes in Scotland.

So, this is what the road (called the A9) looks like between Inverness and Glasgow:

Well, that’s what one of the roads between Inverness and Glasgow looks like. There’s another road between Inverness and Glasgow, and it looks like this:

This other road is called the A82.

The A82, according to Scotland’s Transport Minister, “sits in one of the most challenging landscapes in Scotland.” “Challenging”? What Fun!

The A82 was laid out in the early 1920s and has not been widened or re-engineered since. Even more Fun!

As a result, the Highlands Transport Partnership, which advises the Scottish government on roads and traffic, has declared that, of the 167-mile length of the A82, only 42 miles of it “can be considered to be of a functioning standard.”

FUN!!

Here’s what the locals have to say about the A82:

It is not scary per se. Most of the hair-pin turns have crash barriers and it is beside a loch, not on a mountainside or up in the forest. [Mountains and forests are scary.] But the A82 is very wiggly, and the camber is not well-fashioned in parts, making it literally stomach-churning.

I actually dislike driving the A82 – portions of it wiggle along lochsides in a stomach-churning way, and you will not be able to average more than 35mph (because of the limitations of the road, the ubiquitous caravans and the tour buses trying to own the highway!)

The road is not up to current design standards, its twisty and narrow and there are many blind bends where you wonder what you’ll encounter when you round the corner. It can be a tense drive especially if raining.

Americans: Have you driven in the UK before, i.e., on the left side?? If not, BEWARE!!! Our Scottish roads are thinner than comparable US roads, by a couple feet. Less margin for error. Not to mention the buses, RVs and lorries coming at you at high speeds!!!

As the major road in the western highlands, the A82 has very heavy truck traffic and, because of the narrowness of the roadbed, there is only a six-inch clearance between the average compact car and certain death in the form of an on-coming 40-ton semi.

If you are driving the average compact car on the A82, you will be gripping the steering wheel in sheer terror, hour after hour, as you continually dodge road-hogging trucks and tour buses. The way you will avoid being killed is by depositing  the passenger-side of the car, every mile or so,  into the road-side ditch where, more often than not, your car will slam into one or more boulders, or drop into a sickeningly deep pot hole, or hit a hidden stone curb, or smash into some other obstruction or crater that causes the car and the humans inside it to thump and crash in a variety of revolting shudders, convulsions, jitters, jolts, shimmies, shakes, and/or quakes.

If you are the passenger, each of those hundreds of detours into the ditch will give you a mini-heart attack and make you increasingly angry at the driver for not staying in the damn lane for chrissake because all we need now is a flat tire in the middle of traffic on a minuscule two-lane blacktop miles away from any service station on a road that you had to take.

If you are the driver, each of your petrified passenger’s screams will greatly, and ever-increasingly, piss you off because you don’t need more drama as you tensely clutch the steering wheel and, mile after mile, stare down oblivion coming straight at you as you do the best you can to not get killed.

Oh, look, here are some photographs of Look What Happened To My Car on The A82:

 

 

In other words, the A82 is a bitch to drive and no one in their right mind would choose it as the way to go from Inverness to Glasgow.

So that’s what we did. We drove 168 miserable miles on the absolute worst road in Scotland.

And, to add to the Fun!, we made sure that it was pouring rain the whole way.

Do you remember, way back at the beginning of this story, back when we were all young and gay, that the estimated drive time (on the A9) between Inverness and Glasgow was about 3 1/2 hours?

On the A82, it took us six hours.

And then we got to Glasgow . . .

Stock photo from the internet but this is exactly how Glasgow looks when you are lost.

. . . and just for the Fun! of it, we drove around and around in circles for an hour there, searching and cursing for the way to get to Wigtown.

Top Cat pulled over a couple of time to ask passers-by for directions, but either the passer-by didn’t speak English, or they didn’t know, or they only snarled at us to get the fook out of the bus lane. But not all Glaswegians were unhelpful.

When Top Cat dashed inside a hotel to ask for directions, he came out with an authentic Glaswegian-drawn map:

Unbelievably, this map got us on to the A77, a bucolic road that meanders south from Glasgow through the scenic countryside of Galloway.

A word about the A77:

In 2007, researchers from The Association for Safe International Road Travel concluded the A77 was the 23rd most dangerous road in the world. That’s right, the world. Within a single decade 30 people died on the A77 and close to 250 people were seriously injured.

So, yeah, the A77 was no picnic, either.

 

By the time we pulled into Wigtown, ten hours after leaving Inverness, Top Cat and I were barely on speaking terms. We were mentally debilitated, emotionally frazzled, resentful and tired, and feeling both shame-faced by our own actions in concocting the worst road trip ever, and also powerfully victimized by the other’s part in concocting the worst road trip ever.

It was my idea to drive from Inverness to Glasglow. It was Top Cat’s idea to go via the A82. Two equally bad ideas.

Now, here we were in Wigtown, and we can’t stand the sight of each other. Again.

I can’t tell you that we had a happy ending, five days later, as we wrapped up our adventures in Scotland. Nope. It took us two weeks after we got home to process the experience (from Edinburgh, to Orkney, to Inverness, to Glasgow, to Wigtown) and come to a mutual understanding that re-established the love and respect that we have for each other. But, for real, Top Cat and I are good. And on July 11 we are celebrating 15 years of eventful, wonderful, aggravating, delicious, challenging, and life-making marriage.

P.S. The car rental company in Scotland charged us about $200 for a damaged front passenger-side tire and a dented wheel. All those detours into all those ditches added up.

 

Thank You to all you lovely Dear Readers for volunteering to take the Stromness Rock for a visit to your neck of the American woods. YOU ARE THE BEST!

I will work out an itinerary of its cross-country journey and post it next week. I’m probably going to over-think it and include some sort of “passport” to accompany the rock so that its to-ings and fro-ints will be recorded for posterity, because why not, if you have the chance, to over-complicate things?

And lastly, because you would never believe it unless you had seen it with your own eyes, here’s a book that we got in as a donation to the used book store that I manage here on the north shore of Long Island:

 Yes, of course it’s self-published.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. May all your road trips lead you to the land of your dreams, and may you never end up on the A82 of life.

 

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It’s hot here on the north shore of Long Island. HOT.

And it’s the Fourth of July, and we have a four-day holiday weekend, and I am feeling lazy.

So let’s all take a day off and let’s all soak in the Summer and let’s all laugh at the little man in the White House who has to throw himself a big parade.

I’ll see you here in one week!

 

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