For over three months we’ve had these nine novels by J. Fenimore Cooper (American novelist, 1781 – 1851) in the used book store that I co-manage for the local library here on the north shore of Long Island. Nobody ever looked at them because they are by J. Fenimore Cooper (who is neither an especially beloved nor notorious author). I thought we’d be stuck with them forever.
Then I went to Wigtown (Scotland’s national Book Town; see last week’s blog post) and I saw that one of the booksellers there had tied up a stack of red books (matching bindings) with a bit of twine and it looked very handsome. So, naturally, as soon as I got home I stacked our nine novels by J. Fenimore Cooper and tied them up with a purple ribbon (I didn’t have access to twine):
Within an hour, they had sold. $10.00.
I also stole other equally excellent merchandising ideas from Wigtown, and I will show them to you at a later date.
Because this week I have so much to tell you about our worst trip to Scotland that I want to dive right in.
As we packed for our Saturday departure, we checked the weather forecast for Scotland. It was going to be cold and rainy so at the last minute, I shoved a pair of black corduroy pants into the suitcase.
Turned out that I wore those damn corduroy pants every day that I was in Scotland. So, YAY for last minute inspirations.
An hour before our Uber was to pick us up to go to JFK Airport, I found the first Blue Jay feather of the year so I yelled to Top Cat: It’s an omen!! Everything is going to go right on this trip!!
And the universe laughed.
Well, we got to JFK two hours early and immediately checked in yada yada yada, and then we headed to the latest fab attraction in New York City. We had to hang out at the newly refurbished TWA Terminal!!
This rehab of a gorgeous mid-century modern building at JFK has been in the news so here’s the press release::
You get access to the TWA building by an elevator at the Jet Blue concourse in Terminal 4.
Heart. Be. Still. Everything about the place and the excellent re-hab evokes the glory days of air travel, and the mid-century optimism that the future was going to be awesome.
I remember this place from my last visit, in the early 1990s, and it was a bit run down back then but still beautiful. The re-hab makes the place sparkling and exciting.
The cocktail lounge inside the terminal is very cool. You know, of course, that the building is in the shape of a soaring bird of prey, and all the inside lines swoop and glide.
It’s a thrill.
And then you get to go outside to the Lockheed Constellation (in service from 1943 – 1958) . . .
. . . that has been converted into a bar that serves retro cocktails!
See the guy on the left, (below)?
He reminds me of an observation that David Seders made about American air travelers. David lives in England these days, so when he does a book tour in the land of his birth, he is struck anew by the way Americans comport themselves when it comes to air travel:
“I should be used to the way Americans dress when traveling, yet it still manages to amaze me. It’s as if the person next to you had been washing shoe polish off a pig, then suddenly threw down his sponge saying, “Fuck this. I’m going to Los Angeles!”
The bar, and the TWA Hotel, had been open for 10 days when we stopped by, and were still having opening-day jitters. Meaning that the service was slow and uncertain; I mean the servers were uncertain and slow. It seemed to me that most of the servers had never worked in a bar before, or been to a bar before, and had not come to grips with the concept of taking an order, putting the requisite liquids in a glass, and lastly handing over said liquid refreshment to the person who had ordered it, and not some random person who might look thirsty. Despite all their rushing to and fro, the servers took a long time to get a drink (the one you ordered) and longer to find the person who had requested the drink, and nobody was picking up the used glasses and tid bit plates and napkins throughout the cabin.
Also, I thought the cocktail dress uniforms were ugly . . .
. . . but now I know that they are based upon a vintage flight attendant uniform from the 1970s:
I know an ex-TWA stewardess who flew with the airline in the late 60s and early 70s, and she still goes to reunions with other stews. Once a TWA stew, always a TWA stew.
There is such a vibrant community of former stewardesses that when the TWA Hotel put out a call for vintage uniforms, they got so many women eager to be part of the rebirth of TWA that the hotel had enough material to mount a museum of stewardess fashions and other memorabilia from the 1940s to the 1990s. (Curated by the New-York Historical Society. Serious and fancy!)
Stewardesses were never allowed to gain weight. If you got lax and put on a few pounds, you were grounded until you could fit back into the teeny little uniforms. When these adorable ladies came through the cabin, I sussed that the average stew back then was a size 2:
That’s Top Cat’s $16.00 martini (above). I had a $15 glass of white wine.
Here’s more info about the Balmain uniform seen above:
There is a lot of love for the TWA brand, and a lot of nostalgia for those Jet Set days when air travel was glamorous. If you have the chance to go for a drink or a walk around the TWA Hotel, GO.
I loved our hour in “the Connie”, which put me in a fine mood for jetting off to my favorite foreign land.
And then we boarded our Aer Lingus aircraft.
I am 5’6″ and a size 4, so I usually fit very comfortably in tourist-class seats. This Aer Lingus tin can had thin, flimsy seats set so close together that I was playing nik nak paddy whack with my shins on the back of the guy in front of me. For 6 hours.
I usually like airline food (It’s so cute! A miniature TV dinner!) but the only non-meat option on the menu was “macaroni and cheese”, which the Irish interpret as a slab of semi-melted dairy product adjacent to a very large noodle.
Hungry and bruised, we landed in Edinburgh and, once again, foreign travel was magical.
A Paul Weller sighting! Another good omen! My husband in my other life (the one where I lit out for the UK in the 1980s and married a rock star) will be doing a show at Edinburgh Castle on July 11 so I wished him luck:
After walking for hours on a cloudy and chilly afternoon and there is nothing better than warming up at a pub:
Then night came, and we had a heavenly sleep, and then to City Cafe for Eggs Royale (softly poached eggs with smoked salmon in hollandaise space o a toasted muffin) that Top Cat said was the single best breakfast he’s had in his life.
I lingered at a vintage costume Scottish jewelry stand in the Tron Square to buy a brooch. Then it was much too late to be lingering around Edinburgh so Top Cat and I hurried to the hotel to fetch our bags and we began to trot to Waverly Station to catch a bus back to the airport so we could fly to Orkney.
“Trot” is the word I use to denote the average speed between Top Cat, who was (deliberately, it seemed to me) casually strolling down South Bridge Street to Cockburn Street to Market Street, and I (in full panic mode), running ahead of him, my heart and lungs bursting with fear of one mistake in timing over the purchase of a vintage brooch leading to another leading to a missed flight.
I arrive at Waverly Station and oh, joy! The airport bus is there, idling. I turn to find Top Cat, but I can’t see him yet. I get on the bus and pant, to the driver, “My husband is coming!”
The driver says, “Step off the bus, miss. We’re leaving.”
I am almost in tears. “Wait! Please, wait!” And I lean out of the bus and I see Top Cat in the distance.
“Hurry!” I call to him. “HURRY!”
Top Cat, to prove a point, does not break stride.
“HURRY!” I shout. Top Cat does not like to be shouted at, least of all in public. He
does will not hurry.
“Step off, miss” the driver says to me; “I’m closing the doors.”
“Oh, please, my husband’s coming!” I plead, but I have to step off. Top Cat is within striking distance, but the driver shuts the door in my face just as T.C. ambles alongside me (proving a point), and the bus pulls out.
The next airport bus is in 20 minutes. These are 20 minutes that we can’t spare. These are 20 minutes that we could have been closing in on the LoganAir desk at Edinburgh airport, 20 minutes that could mean the difference between getting to the airport with a merely uncomfortable allowance of time to get through a rigorous security, and a (now, thanks to Top Cat) impossible one.
For the next 20 minutes, I can not stand the sight of Top Cat. We get on the next bus, and my heart is still pounding and I feel as if my brain is on fire. Were I the kind of girl who cries when vexed, I would be sobbing. Top Cat and I exchange words, tersely at first and then with mounting vehemence.
I won’t give you the back and forth; suffice to say that for the next 12 hours or so, Top Cat and I will have very different, and monstrously strong, and at times loud, ideas about who was being the shithead in taking his sweet old time to prove a point about when it is, and when it isn’t necessary to HURRY, while the other one was trying her best AND WOULD HAVE SUCCEEDED in getting us out of a tight spot. We also have extremely opposed opinions about how much we are entitled to sulk like a two year old if one of us thinks the other one is “yelling” at him.
Edinburgh airport security is no joke. It’s not that there’s a thousand people herded into a space that would be quite jolly as a tea for two parlor; it’s that the officers are as suspicious of everyone as if this was Tel Aviv and all our hand luggage is branded TerroristsRUs.
I inch my way though all the hurdles, but Top Cat has brought two bottles of Duty Free vodka in his carry on (don’t ask) and Security is sure it’s nitroglycerin. He’s searched again, and again. And then again.
I am having a heart attack: it’s 5 minutes until LoganAir flight 19 to Kirkwall, Orkney closes its doors. I yell at Top Cat that I will meet him at the gate and I tear through an absurdly lengthy shopping area to get to Gate 25. I will lay my body down in front of the jet if it tries to leave without Top Cat.
Naturally, it’s the last gate in the terminal. The one furthest away from ANYWHERE.
Yes, we eventually get on the plane. But at this point, neither of us has any desire to go to fucking Orkney. Or to speak to each other. Or to be married.
Jet lag, too many glasses of hooch the night before, anxiety about the itinerary. . . there are a lot of contributing factors to why people are more touchy than usual when in foreign lands.
And that is all for this week’s installment of Fight Club Goes to Scotland. Thank you for letting me use this space to process my vacation. As I write about it, even now, I feel my blood pressure rocket. I will do some deep breathing and try to stop my heart from pounding in my eyeball sockets.
I am sorry that this post is late, because the internet hates me. I have to call my blog host about this “Bad Gateway” situation again. We’ll probably have to chat about caches, and ADSLs, and codecs and jjlodaasl;dfj. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to do it sober.
I’m sorry if the TWA Hotel was boring — next time, I’ll stick to the travelog and all the scintillating ways your spouse can drive you crazy.