Here’s the beginning of a piece I wrote for a reading about Drink that was held in a local bar.
When I was twenty I got on a plane and went to Edinburgh, Scotland, to live for a year. It was 1978 and I had just graduated from college and was headed to Scotland because I had won a fellowship from a foundation that wrote me a check for $6,000 and said have a good time. I had to do a project outside the United States and I chose one in Scotland because it seemed more exotic than England and yet they still spoke English. Kind of.
When I left my little village in upstate New York thirty years ago and landed in Edinburgh in the beginning of September I didn’t know a soul. I’d never traveled before, and wasn’t connected to a college or university so I knew there would be no one to help me make plans or to fall back on when I failed miserably at whatever it was I was going to do. I took a cab from the airport to the university and had the cabbie drop me off at the student union along with my suitcase and my backpack. Three hours later – after making one phone call to a number found on a card pinned to a bulletin board – I was standing in my bedroom in a flat in Morningside, a nice neighborhood of row houses just beyond the university. My flatmates were Phani, a man from Greece who had a brain tumor and was studying political science at the university; Amir, an engineering student from Iran; and Michiko, Amir’s girlfriend from Japan. We had varying degrees of proficiency in English from my less-than-perfect use of the language to Michiko, who spoke no English at all. (click here to read the rest of the piece.)