11. Whoa! What’s the most surreal experience you’ve ever had?
I was getting close to the end of my trip. I was in Glasgow visiting the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum on a particularly rainy day, not unusual for Scotland. I spent the better part of an afternoon drifting from room to room and came across the piece, Christ of Saint John of the Cross (featured above). Even when you have no prior knowledge of art you can quickly tell the importance of a piece when it has its own room and own lighting.
Another good tip is that the room will be filled with people all waving selfie sticks in the attempt to grab a picture. For those of you unaware, like I was, this is the work of the famous surrealist artist, Salvador Dalí. The painting was purchased by the City of Glasgow in 1952 and quickly became a point of controversy. Controversy that even led to the damage of the painting when the canvas was torn from a visitor throwing a sharp stone.
The inspiration for the painting came from a drawing of the Crucifixion made by St John of the Cross, a 16th Century Spanish saint. Dalí then went on to have a dream of what the painting should like it and is said to have described the inspiration as, “I saw this image in color and which in my dream represented the ‘nucleus of the atom.’ This nucleus later took on a metaphysical sense; I considered it ‘the very unity of the universe,’ the Christ!”
So there you have it. I was staring at the very unity of the universe that has been held in this museum for sixty-three years, and what was I thinking about? The accidental date that I went on with a seventy something year old man.
It was very surreal, and in the most textbook definition way of being very strange and unusual. Before arriving in Glasgow I had been in Edinburgh for three days and instantly fell in love with the city. While planning my trip a friend of mine had suggested talking to her dad who had been to Ireland and Scotland before and had a few contacts. This is how I met Arthur.
I already had a hostel to stay in and my expectation was that, at the request of his friend, Arthur would take a poor American out to dinner. When Arthur first showed up to the hostel it kind of felt like my dear old grandpa was picking me up. He offered to show me some of the country side as he was hoping to visit his old workplace, a hotel that he used to manage. About ten minutes into the car ride we both ran out of things to say.
I thought to myself, worst case scenario he is a creep and I flee to the hills. By the looks of it I could definitely outrun him. We walked into the hotel like he still owned the place, and he spent time sharing stories about his years there. Stories which then proceeded into the second car trip on the way to a pub. Finally, a beer. This interaction was going to need alcohol to continue.
Not that Arthur wasn’t an interesting guy or had great stories to tell. But no matter how many interesting things there are to say you’re always going to the come back to the fact that its a little weird to spend this much alone time with a seventy-year old man, who is not related to you. When we hit the dinner portion of the evening I felt relieved. There was food and alcohol to distract me and then it would be over, or at least that’s what I thought.
“What would you like to do next?”
“Oh I was just going to head back to the hostel because I have a train to-”
“Let’s grab a drink! My friend’s son works at a pub we could go to.” He seemed so genuine that it seemed wrong to turn him down so I reluctantly agreed. I mean how bad could one more drink be? Especially since he probably wouldn’t let me pay for it.
The pub was in the bottom of a hostel. Where the attention immediately went to the seventy year-old man and his child bride. I could feel my cheeks burn as we went to grab two pints of Guinness. This was the pub? Did he not feel self conscious about being the oldest man in the room by a good forty or so years? His expression gave nothing away and since he was a true Scots man the Guinness was gone in roughly five seconds.
When he offered to go to a place that played music I pictured a dark jazz lounge that would be more his scene, or at least probably have attendees near his age. And before I could say “no” a “sure,” rolled out of my mouth. That is how we ended up in a four story nightclub. Mind you I was not dressed for an evening out on the town. Even though it was the middle of summer I was dressed in jeans, a Santa Cruz, California sweatshirt and a pair of purple converse. As if my attire was the embarrassing part of the evening.
How did I get there? I don’t know. Truthfully I had been asking myself that question all night. While we were walking along the streets of Edinburgh the club’s promoter stopped us and offered wrist bands to get in for free. I was silently pleading in my head that we would keep walking, but instead I found myself standing on a dark dance floor with a man who would not let this night end.
Around 1 AM we emerged from the club and as he hailed down a taxi he was thinking out loud of possible places to hit next. Oh no. No, there was no way in hell I was getting into that taxi with him. After insisting that I would be fine making my own way back to the hostel we embraced awkwardly and I nearly ran all the way back to the safety of my room. What was supposed to be a casual dinner for an American tourist turned into the longest, most awkward date of my life.
How is that for a surreal experience?