Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I don't hug trees but I might start

There's a wee town on Florida's west coast called Dunedin, it's rich in Scottish heritage and boasts a truly great highland games as well as many worthy pubs. Men walk around in kilts and even though it's 80 degrees you can feel the highlands in the air. Although never confirmed I imagine the name Dunedin is a mix of Dundee + Edinburgh two of Scotland's immortal cities one of which spawned yours truly.

I will get back to Dunedin shortly because I want to make a life point here: There are many things a man can do to prepare himself for the battle of life, a man will be challenged over and over and by the time he has reached thirty I suppose he will have had his share of scraps and tussles and bar fights and beatings, or maybe it's just me.
That being said by the age of 14 most lads will start building the body for the oncoming battle.

By the twenties your body is hard and and fast and if you keep it up through your thirties you are on a good path. By the time a man reaches forty, he most likely has a family, a 401-k, mortgage and other obligations that keep him on the clock until he reaches the ripe old age of 65.

My point? well in the beautiful wee town of Dunedin something happened that no matter how hard the body or sharp the mind or how well stocked the retirement cubby is, an event so cataclysmic no human defense would matter.





SINKHOLE!
                

Your P90X will not aid you during this biblical reconstruction of terra firma!
So go ahead and drink that extra pint or have another donut because when you feel that rumble under your feet even the fastest bolt on the planet can escape the sinkhole. My heart goes out to those affected by such a miserable tragedy, what on earth does one do to deserve this? Life on this little rock is fragile enough.
Hug your weans and kiss your spouse because at any time the earth can open up and swallow you whole - Literally!


Another sinkhole opened up in Orlando earlier this year close to the theme parks.



I don't hug trees but I might start.






 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Gallant Wanderer



December 1979.
Travelling west to Glasgow to watch Scotland take on Belgium at Hampden Park.

It seems as if this trip with dad was a combination of two things.
1. Watch the glorious men in dark blue perform their majestic dance.
2. Collect the money owed from the man in hiding, apparently the juice was running.

Comfortably slouching in the passenger seat of the pillar box red XJ6 clad in jeans and black leather I pretended to be a gangster. Be careful what you wish for because a few years after that trip while living in South Florida I was in the employ of the "Greeks" and I do not mean the college fraternity lads and their paddling rituals but rather the type that promoted the exports of Columbia and Bolivia to the rich of South Beach.

Dad was suited as usual, a hardworking man from the docks of Dundee who rose to high levels as a business man due to an astringent work ethic and perhaps some nefarious dealings to which I was not privy to or would even understand as just a lad at the time.

The two ladies answered the blue wood door, their necks like giraffes stretching out and around inquiring as to who was interrupting their precious slumber.
Father requested the presence of the so called man of the house as it is he that owes a sum of money and today it is to be paid.

I was told to wait in the car but like most inquisitive lads I snuck out to hear what dad was requesting of the ladies.

As I stood behind my Father I was able to see their perplexed look as they began to spin their wordy excuse, I watched as the two ladies presented a tale worthy of a golden statue, all while only offering their long necks behind the blue wood door. I realised later in life that my Father could have easily smashed that door and entered their habitat in search of the debtor if only the lad was not present.
The giraffes finished their repose as to the whereabouts of the offender with the statement-
"He's a gallant wanderer."

He's a gallant wanderer...there it was, the words that stuck with me for years to come never leaving the memory and always bringing images of the giraffe ladies.

My Father retreated from the blue wood door in a volatile state and the giraffes returned to their safe slumber never to be seen again but always remembered...always.

We now drive to a market where the hunted supposedly earns a bit if coin, on the way I keep saying over and over - A GALLANT WANDERER...A GALLANT WANDERER.
What did it mean? I did not understand the words spoken by the cautious longnecks all I knew is that those words had taken over my head and the joy of the weekend and the match had been replaced with the thought of a man on the run whose label was Gallant Wanderer and had nowhere to hide because every where he went he would be pointed at - There goes the gallant wanderer.



Back in those days the culinary simplicity of a good chip shop would usually satiate the needs of young sausage but on this day even the delight of a black pudding supper with two pickled onions could not offer recluse because the words kept playing over and over.

I don't know if my father ever collected the debt or if the debtor was ever found, we did however spend the day in Glasgow and being at Hampden surrounded by your people was an memorable honor.
A concrete and steel castle every little space filled with saltires of blue and white and Lions on the rampage and enough tartan to fill a book about tartans.

Still to this day I think about that trip with my Father and the two giraffes and their glorious words that embedded so deep into my cerebellum at such a young age. I often wonder if seeing my Father in his other business role led me to what I became after we switched continents a few years later.

The memory is usually triggered a few times a year when I imagine the XJ6 and the deep smell of her luxurious seats. The noble and daring giraffes in defense of their breadwinner so cautious yet callous in their lies. The black pudding supper and two pickled onions and how lacking they were for the first time. The utter joy of watching Scotland standing next to your Father in the national stadium while witnessing the glory of 22 men, one ball and a green silky carpet perform what most young Scots lads dream of. And of course the words so elegantly described to label the pursued...a man who may yet still be on the run, who knows the whereabouts of the one they call the...
GALLANT WANDERER










Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My wee corner in the Creggy







A piece of my childhood has just been evaporated from existence as I learn of the closing of the Taychreggan Pub in Dundee.

The Taychreggan was a revamped Victorian mansion turned pub in the 1970's, it was also the local of mum and dad which by default made it my second home.

The memories of this wee spot on the globe still linger in the noggin, many nights and weekends I gladly watched my ma and pa along with their gaggle of mates drown their sorrows at the Creggy apparentyl we were v.i.p.'s because I was always allowed in but had to stay in the corner with my coke - cola not Colombian flake! that was years later.

I witnessed my father broker many deals at that bar while nursing down pints along with generous amounts of whisky and my mother held court with her half pints and other mixed concoctions. I sat and watched it all.

I was fortunate enough to learn early on the promise of a good pint and the amber allure of a glass of the water of life while watching the good people at the Taychreggan Pub drown their sorrows and fill up their happiness with Scotland's finest liquors.

 I sometimes wonder if my time in the corner watching and listening, observing the drunk and down trodden people of Dundee saunter into this wee corner of the globe has formed me as a man.
Was it this place that taught me my take no prisoners persona as I remember grown men beaten and thrown curbside for their offenses only to return the following night for another round of liquid courage.

The closing of the Taychreggan pub is like a wee part of my soul dying, a remembrance of happy times when my father and mother were younger and held the world in their hands with such verve.
I can still smell the place when I walk into older establishments, that old wood and aged leather aroma the air thick with fermented hops and the clinking of many glasses.

The noise of loud conversation and the whispers of money and deals all while I sit and watch and learn the ways of men.
I still use the lessons I learned in that wee corner as I weave my way through life.

The memories of the Taychreggan will live in me forever.


The last owner of the Creggy












 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A History of Violence - no mas



The life of  Tommy McNaughton -
a Dundee lad in Miami.

Decades of violence, drugs and lies coupled with the nightmares that accompany the horrors and shame of a once poorly chosen lifestyle. A lifestyle chosen in youth when the flash of a car and the allure of a pistol hardened the body but softened the soul, as the song says
"It's the lure of easy money, it's got a very strong appeal."

I can't sleep lately, even though for the first time in a while I am in my own bed comfy yet troubled. The flashback of that night keeps me awake and the bitter taste of defeat rumbles in my belly like a healed wound punctured once more.

I can clearly see that night a long time ago in Miami a strong young man with quick and powerful hands and a temper built by the picts. I picture the walk to the ring, the well imbibed crowd spitting insults my way as I dodge cheap beer and peanuts listening to chants of gringo...gringo...gringo. It was a Friday fight night at Cooper's Gym and I was on the card versus a tough Cuban mauler named
Guillermo Cortez aka "El Toro."

Something was gnawing at me that night and as much as I tried I couldn't focus on the task at hand, my subconscious was going mental! I couldn't move as well as I usually did and it felt like running in a pool of honey while being pummeled by a man that on an any other night I could have easily put away in the second.

Cortez put me down in the third round, the game plan went out the window in the second round when nothing was working and I opted for the quick knock out. Anyone that has studied the sweet science will tell you that if you go for the knockout too much you open yourself for the counter. I made a bad mistake, the game plan called for the jab and for me to keep this bull away, frustrate him and let him loose his cool then attack with much malice.
I dumped the game plan and swung away like a punch drunk amateur.
I was caught cold - Cortez wins.

When your nose is broken you can't smell anything but by some miracle I sat in the trainers room as the doctor flitted about me checking for the usual signs of trauma and I could smell the stench of piss and sweat and dirty underpants flung on the floor by hurried pugilists. It may have been a phantom reaction of being in that room, it might have been a side effect of having my head punched too many times. I can still smell that stench today, not even time and money could erase that from the cerebellum, it's in there deep.

I am joined by my two friends Sully and Alexandrous. Sully, an American lad who dreams of the Emerald Isle where his grandparents came from and Alexandrous the crown prince of the Zoufrakis family, the type of family that moves snow in South Florida and I don't mean meteorologists.
I called Alexendrous - Eck.
Sully bobs and weaves and shows me where I went wrong, Eck pulls out a fat wallet and tells me it was fatter before my loss. I want a beer and a couple of shots so badly to ease the pain but back then Cooper would not let us drink alcohol after a fight for at least 24 hours, Sully hands me his flask. Cooper is not aware. Relief.
 
Outside the Miami night is sweet and warm and is a blessing to be away from the rancid gym, the aroma of Eck's cigarette is nauseating and if not for the visual oasis of surrounding ladies I would have gladly vomited on his shoes.

Sully nods to Eck as a white Mercedes approaches, Eck flings his cigarette rapidly as if to conceal his shame from the approaching carriage. That feeling I had in the fight comes rushing back, that gnawing in the gut like being hurled on a roller coaster towards a pit of vipers. I now know why I lost my focus and my bonus money to Cortez.

Out of the Mercedes steps Mr. Zoufrakis smoking a cigarette, he walks over to Eck and slaps him in the back of the head. "Smoking kills" he says all while looking me dead in the eye with the steeliness of a high noon gunslinger.
"What happened?" he moans "I thought you had this fucking guy" I stumble out an answer like a wee lad on his first date. Even though Eck and I have been best mates for years and I have been in the company of the entire Zoufrakis family, the old man still scared the piss out me. He was and old school gangster personified and a new age drug dealer in Miami Beach and was about to be my new boss.

Mr. Zoufrakis trusted me with his family and his product and along with Sully I began running game with Eck. We were a three man crew delivering the snow to the upper crust scumbags of Miami Beach. Plastic surgeons, golf pros, television presenters and so on and son on. The types of assholes that lived in South Beach penthouses and had more money than sense.

I swapped my Everlast gloves for a Smith and Wesson .357 magnum and followed my mates down a dark yet lovely path.
 

 
 Just like any Hollywood movie there were always massive perks of being in that business, all suitable for 3 young lads without responsibility.  I look back on those times and I am glad to be alive but I often think of the people I have hurt both physically and emotionally, funny how I could sleep at night after bashing someones brain in the ring but the memory of a grown man crying when faced with the option of paying up now or having a Louisville Slugger to the knee caps haunts me like a dogged demon. Why? I lie to myself and say we were all guilty, the dealers, the heavy, the user...we were all players in the game.

I think of the fight with Cortez and the failure to stick with the game plan, I keep saying over and over "Move...move"
I can still picture that night in Miami Beach, I can still picture Mr. Zoufrakis getting out of the Mercedes smoking but most of all I still remember the last time I gently laid the barrel of my .357 on the top of someones head as Eck and Sully counted the money. There are no pharmaceuticals that can erase that.....

I am on the strait and narrow until they close the lid on that box.
Tam.


The sweet and exciting nights
in Miami Beach
So alluring yet so deadly.
I no longer live there.


















Friday, March 1, 2013

Today the fish of Scotland are smiling

There is no "I" in team and there is no "E" in Whisky!

Get ready to pay more for the glorious liquid of life or as my American friends call it - Scotch. I found this story on the BBC Scotland site and I know two things.
1. Tonight after a hard week of work I will drink a sizeable amount of Whisky.
2. There are a couple of punters in Dumbarton looking for a job.
Enjoy your weekend...

Thousands of litres of whisky flushed down drain in Dumbarton

Chivas Brothers aged Scotch whisky range The mistake happened at a Chivas Brothers bottling plant

Thousands of litres of whisky have been flushed down the drain by accident at a bottling plant in Dumbarton.


It is understood the mix-up happened at Chivas Brothers during the night shift on Tuesday while equipment was being cleaned.

Instead of draining away waste water, the workers on duty somehow flushed out thousands of litres of bulk whisky.

The smell was so strong that sewage workers reported it.

Chivas Brothers - which employs 600 workers at the plant and produces the world's second biggest-selling brand, Ballantine's - said it was investigating an accidental release of spirit.

A statement said: "We are currently investigating an accidental loss on the 26th of February at our Dumbarton site, where some spirit was released to the local water treatment plant.

"There has been no release of spirit to the River Leven or any other local water course. We have informed Scottish Water and all other relevant authorities."
'Adverse impact'
A Scottish Water spokesman said: "Staff at our waste water treatment works were already aware of a problem and were working to identify the source when contacted by Chivas Brothers.

"Our trade effluent team have now visited the company to get an oversight into its failure investigation so that we can ensure all possible precautions are being taken to prevent a repeat.

"Discharging large volumes of alcohol into the sewer network can have an adverse impact on waste water treatment processes, particularly during dry, cold weather.

"We are continuing to closely monitor our Dumbarton waste water treatment works to ensure treatment has not been compromised."