It’s Festival(s) season in Edinburgh. Festivals mean tourists. Remember those slow-walkers I was talking about? Last week one of them stopped short in front of a shop and yelled: I want a t-shirt with ‘Scotland’ on it! Which reminded me, for about the billionth, time that I would like a shirt that says : I am not a tourist.
I have nothing against tourists, fundamentally-speaking. They haven’t done anything to me. I actually like them. I think they are sweet, like children and old people. Over-hearing their conversations and sometimes talking to them makes me smile and nod. Yes, really. Smile and nod, and want to help them. Tell them that a fake kilt won’t make them blend in with the locals.
Take another day last week, for example.
Sarge was on holiday, and in between book festival events and comedy shows we were having lunch at the Mosque Kitchen. Sitting across from us was a couple discussing the location of vegetarian restaurants. Now, I am not a vegetarian. But it just so happened that two night before, we’d been to a vegetarian restaurant. I’d loved the meal and managed not to gag, which is my usual reaction to vegetables. To be fair, I picked something that was basically cheese with tomato sauce. I just pretended it was Italian food without the pasta and got on with it.
Maybe I wanted to share the fact that as someone with an aversion to vegetables, I enjoyed this meal and would go back. I don’t know why I was so excited; these visitors looking for a restaurant two days later didn’t know me. But I found myself talking to them. I was shocked I was in position to talk positively about meat-less food. Who knew?
I was happy to impart some local knowledge that I was surprised to even have. Surely, this meant that after three months in Edinburgh, I am building up to being a local myself. Sarge and I recommended Kalpna, and other veggie places, and then the conversation got around to where we were from. I asked Sarge to go first, because my story would be longer.
I moved to Scotland from New York when I was 13. Being 13 at the time, this was not something I did on my own. I happily followed my Dad after he moved here. When I speak, taxi drivers and everyone else who doesn’t know me don’t believe I’ve been here more than half my life. I have stopped asking what my accent sounds like to other people. I just sound like me.
Scotland is home. My life is here, and my Dad is here. Sarge is here. My friends are all over the place, but some are here. I am here. This is something I have to explain on a daily basis. People who assume I just got off the plane ask: When are you going home? I go home every day. They then ask if I miss the nightlife in New York. Well, I didn’t really go clubbing when I was 12.
There are things I miss about my childhood. But that’s because I’m getting old and nostalgic, not because I’m home-sick for New York.
Scotland is my home; certain people here are my home, but where I’m from depends on my mood. I have the luxury of choice. When the Mets are playing, I’m from New York. If I’ve just watched The Godfather, I’m from New York. When I drink good coffee and eat not-so good bagels, I am from New York, where there are better bagels. When I hear good bagpipes or see mountains or breathe fresh air, I’m from the Highlands, where there are bigger mountains, and fresher air. On my birthday, I am from Texas. When Bush was in office, I was Canadian.
I live in Scotland. I may be new to Edinburgh, and therefore living here during the Festival(s) is still a novelty to me. However, I am not a tourist. I am not one of those people sitting in cafes writing post-cards. Although, I do always wonder what they are writing, and who the post-cards are for. I’m not with a tour group. I don’t have to be back on the bus at 5 o’clock or on a plane in ten days.
I do have to say, one of my favourite things to do is play tour-guide when those all over the place friends and family come to visit. It’s an interesting experience, because I am directionally-challenged myself.
And for the record, when in places that are not Scotland or New York, I am one of those people sitting in cafes writing post-cards. And I’ll probably be wearing a Scotland t-shirt and have a Mets cap on.