by Chris Rostenberg

The people in Scotland are European but they speak English like normal people. They’re in the New World but also the Old World, kind of like Spock. My mom took my sister and me there after Camp Dudley when I was 14. We traveled through youth hostels which are cheap places to stay like college dorms. Europe has a very extensive hostel program and America should get one too so people can travel throughout the country easier … because America does not know itself.

Scottish people are amazed at our stuff. I had this Casio watch which sang songs and it was so cool! And the Scottish people wanted to steal it! I lay in my bed in the youth hostel dorm and these bigger guys were saying how they were going to mug the Yank and steal his Casio watch! So I pulled up my blankets and hid the watch on my ankle. Europeans think Americans dress like slobs because we wear our watches under our socks. They say, “Grand” and, “Oh, aye!” a lot and they think it’s funny that we say, “Have a nice day!” Grand. There’s a word I really hate. It’s a phony. I could puke every time I hear it.

Scotland had its own stuff that we didn’t have like this fake vomit I found at a joke shop in Glasgow. High quality! My dentist didn’t appreciate it when I pretended to barf on his counter. The Sri Shinmoy disciple didn’t like it when I put fake spider web on his mirror. And my uncle Andy lost his mind when I “spilled” disappearing ink on his shirt … and it didn’t disappear.

I also got these great stink bombs made of concentrated fart gas. This German guy in the kitchen of the hostel told me about other chemical bombs he knew how to make. I had a little comic book and just off the top of his head, he wrote down a chemical formula for a dangerous stink bomb on the book and said, “Never make this!” The British must be so mad that we had to rescue them in WWII and took over, and then their Empire collapsed and everything. They must have been so scared that Nazis would run their country! Imagine if Nazis ran America! I bet the music would suck! I can’t explain what I mean. And even if I could, I’m not sure I’d feel like it.

When we were hosteling through Scotland, we climbed the tallest mountain in the country, called Ben Nevis. We were on the peak and realized we had to hurry back down to get our taxi to the next hostel or we would have nowhere to sleep for the night. So I ran down the mountain off the trail and found these wild goats. I took a picture of the goat with my foot in the frame to show how close I was.

I got the taxi and we were safe. My mother was so proud of me. I’m proud of her. When she was a little girl, some Scottish people had certain comments about American G.I.s. “They’re over-paid, over-sexed and over here!” But my mom was impressed with American soldiers visiting Scotland. Kids would approach soldiers and say, “Got any gum, chum?” My mom couldn’t believe the kids in American movies … they seemed so free. Her teacher told her class, “The best of you will move away.” When my mother grew up, she said, “Fuckit!  I’m moving to America!” 

She came over here and got a job as a secretary within a week. She invited her two sisters and her mother to come over here and they’re grateful. My mother also jumped out of an airplane five times. My sister has done it lots of times! I jumped out of an airplane once too, but it was on the ground.

My mom has traveled cheaply to China, India, Tibet, Japan, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Australia and New Jersey. My mother is in three Scottish clans: the Ross, the Frasers and the McClouds like in that movie, The Highlander. The highlanders were like these proud barbarians or something who would wear kilts, get drunk, and kick your ass. Scotland has a national holiday for poet Robert Burns, best known for writing the poem that is the inspiration of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.  Holden wanted to save children. Robbie Burns also has this poem called, “Wee Mousie” about a little mouse … my kind of guy! The most famous Scottish person of the Twentieth Century is Sean Connery, who played James Bond. I heard him speak at the Waldorf Astoria. I prefer Daniel Craig, but he waxed his chest and Connery had a hairy chest.

One day I noticed the words “Jesse James” on my mother’s driver’s license. Why was it there? Turns out her mother’s name was Jesse and her father’s name was James. I hadn’t known that. James was a mechanic and a co-owner of a fishing boat in Portmahomack called the “Albert Ross.”  He volunteered to fight in the war, was captured by the Japanese and died of dysentery in a prisoner-of-war camp. The family didn’t learn of his death for years, and it devastated them. The gap is defining. Mom resented the Japanese until she went to Japan with Kendall, visited her father’s grave, talked to the Japanese; then she forgave them.

Scotland has history but America has geography. Scottish people have great national pride. When I was alone on the swing-set there, these four punks came up to me and said in their funny Scottish accent, “Scottish people eat quite a bit of sweets, oh aye. It’s grand! We have more cavities per capita than anywhere else in the world! Dinna be daft!” He kept calling girls “lassies” and couldn’t pronounce “girls” at all.

Scotland has these Highland games going on, where men in kilts would toss cabers … which are these big logs … and they just toss them. What the fuck?! Handy in war, but America has cannons. They also have fish and chips in newspaper that is way better than pizza outside of New York. They also have a rocking Scottish comic book called “The Broons.” Lots of Scottish people have bad teeth so get dentures. In the old days, the fake teeth were made white, but today they make them yellow to look real. Some come with fillings. 

Lots of castles in Scotland. I was at the one in “The Highlander,” and it has a gift shop. I also visited Loch Ness. My sister, Kendall’s, name is Scottish and means “Chief of the Valley.” In Scotland, women can be chiefs. Fetuses cannot be chiefs. Some day!

 My grandmother would say, “Dinna greet wee bairn!” which means, “Don’t cry little baby.” “Oot of the road! I’m going to scon your dock!” Translation: “Move! I’m going to spank your ass!” My friend Vinny heard me talking to my grandmother and thought I was just playing around with an old Alzheimer patient who was rambling on about nothing. When I told gramma this she said, “Och, wot a daft bugger!”

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