October 27, 2011
Nancy Walsh has fixed my "m" key, as she has fixed so many things in my life. I can now type "America" and "home" and "magic" and "alchemy" and so many of my favorite words. Going without "m" forced me to be a more selfless writer, finding myself without "me" and "mine". Thank god that experiment is over.
Everyone has a bad night's sleep except me and we curse the Old Coach House Hotel and the Royal British Legion Hall and all of Buckie over breakfast.
Fuck Buckie seems to be the general consensus, so we drive.
We head south to Braemar and the road turns extraordinary as we climb in between vertical fields where sheep balance effortlessly. At one point it opens up and Camilla pulls over without speaking and we all gawp about. Words do no justice and we aren't even in the Highlands proper yet. The sun fills the day and the colors of the fields and forest, shades of green, yellow, rust and red turn Scotland briefly to Oz.
The van chugs and powers up the hills and down into dales. We pass the Glenlivet distillery, a secular shrine if ever there was one.
And then we pass within six miles of Balmoral, the queen's place when she's up in these parts.
I love this country and I have great love for England as well, but the fact of monarchy can drive me from polite bemusement to full-throated Robespierrian fury in less than a minute. I usually keep it to myself when I'm here, knowing I'm just a guest and minding my manners. I know people, clear-thinking, generous people, who will defend it, but for me it's like arguing for slavery.
At the end, when everything else is weighed and laid out, the cold fact is that this society has agreed that one family is better and more worthy than everyone else. They somehow deserve a massive, unearned fortune, every privilege and blessing available in the land, an army of personal assistants, chefs, chauffeurs, gardeners, maids and security personnel, and all this because one of their ancestors was a stronger, craftier and more ruthless thug than the other prominent thugs of his day.
How is this different, in essence, than a society agreeing that another family, or group of people, is less than the rest of us, born into poverty rather than wealth, stripped of all privilege instead of handed it all at birth?
One slippery step further and we can agree that the very stamp of humanity is not on their unlucky souls and they are chattel to be bought and sold.
The argument may sound extreme to some, but to me it's just the flip side of the same ancient, greasy coin.
Inherited wealth yields the same result in America, of course, but in America you're just another rich guy. I'm not expected to call you Lord or Your Majesty or any other honorific horseshit. You don't get to address the nation in times of crisis and your face isn't on the coins. We don't shut down the country when one of your offspring gets married and I'm certainly not expected to fucking bow if you deign to take my hand.
I say give them all twenty-four hours to grab whatever they can carry (which would be more than you and I will probably ever see in our lifetimes) and then it's open season on royalty. Get in a private jet and go to another island, one that's warm and covered with palm trees and good luck.
And just be glad that you got to play King and Queen for awhile there.
We arrive in beautiful Braemar and find the Village Hall. It's the smallest place we've played but warm and cozy and our set fits snugly at one end. We set it all up and find our lodging which is a fully equipped cabin with three bedrooms and a common area with a kitchen and a living room, complete with leather reclining couches. Kind of a swank, touristy feel to it, but it beats the hell out of the Old Coach House Hotel.
After our usual routine of naps and an early dinner we gather back at the hall to warm up and run a sound-check. The show sounds great in this place, the wooden walls absorb and resonate with the music and once again it looks better in a public room than it ever did inside a theater.
Our crowd arrives, easily triple the size of the Buckie brigade and the players rip into their best show of the tour. There's a confidence and an ease to the first half that they can feel and they feed off of each other, giving the show a pace and urgency and inevitability that thrills me sitting alone in the back. The second half builds off of this energy and the applause is fierce at the end.
We break down and load up with the help of John, the venue rep and then back to the cabin to celebrate. We play cards and drink cider and whiskey, glad that tomorrow's a travel day and a travel day into the Highlands at that.