The Rick Roll of a lifetime l Chuck's World
Last updated 7/17/2019 at Noon
A few years ago, while visiting family in Texas, I was watching the local PBS station when I noticed a familiar face.
They were having a pledge drive. I don’t know why I feel the need to note that, as if it were a special occasion.
But it was, as this Austin station was fortunate enough to have Rick Steves in the studio. Steves is a great guest for pledge drives, because he’s a great guest in general. He’s personable, interesting, knowledgeable, and comfortable on camera.
I didn’t need to mention that, either. You know.
You probably also know why it was a treat. It’s always fun to see a familiar face when away from home, and while Steves is familiar to people around the world, it’s still nice to feel my chest puffing out a bit, just by virtue of proximity.
This is one of us, a neighbor, an Edmonds resident who enriches our community while teaching all of us how to leave home.
I’m a big fan, then. I’ve spent many hours living vicariously through Steves, wandering through Europe virtually with his help. I’m a frequent visitor to his website, and I’ve seen a lot of videos lately.
It’s because I have a particular passion. There’s no word for it, or no definitive word. You could say I’m a Scotophile, but that’s awkward and really not right. Gallophile or Caledophile might be better, but they’d be meaningless to most people until I explained.
I just have fascination with Scotland, and I have for a long time. I’ve always been drawn to the northern-most realms of this planet anyway, although it’s less about climate than culture. And it could just be some genetic compulsion to phone home, as apparently my ancestors mostly hail from Northern Europe.
Looking at my genetic profile, there are lots of hits in Scotland.
But my immediate ancestors seem to have been in this country since colonial days. There is no old country for me, no family lore of immigrants winding their way to the land of opportunity. I apparently come from serious opportunists.
I just like the look of the place. I’m interested in the history and geography. I admire the accent, the musicality of the vowels bouncing up and down the scale. I stare at photos and drone footage for hours. I use Google Street View to virtually walk the roads of Pennan in Aberdeenshire, the small village where many scenes from the 1983 Bill Forsyth film “Local Hero” took place.
And I watch Steves take me through Scotland, from pubs to museums to castles. I enjoy his conversations with people on the streets of big cities and small villages, people who seem friendly and interesting, and who do not appear to be speaking recognizable English.
There are plenty of Americans with passion for Scotland, usually with family histories and connections that they take personally. There’s always lots of talk of clans and kilts, bagpipe music is on their playlists, and they make interesting efforts toward Gaelic, although my eyes glaze over a bit. I’ve known people like this. They are not me.
I just had an interest, and then developed a friendship with a woman who brought her native Glasgow to Puget Sound. I’ve become enamored with Glasgow, actually, developing a fierce attachment to this place I’ve never been, a preference for the western coast that is based on nothing, just the stories from my friend.
And Billy Connolly. Maybe “Billy Elliott.”
So while I’m not one of the clan people, my affection is real, and growing. I’ve been watching videos from BBC Scotland. I search out Connolly and Craig Ferguson on YouTube, along with Rick Steves. My ears are on alert for those Glaswegian vowel sounds. For whatever reason, my heart belongs to Scotland.
And this summer I get to go.
I won’t be alone. Already this season, I’ve seen a bazillion pictures from friends exploring Europe. More and more Americans are snagging a passport and heading across the Atlantic, probably due in no small part to Steves. This time, I’ll be one of them.
I’m an American who generally stays put, although mostly due to circumstances. Decades of self-employment and family scattered all over North America trimmed my opportunities, and then deadly routine took over. I’m 61 and I’ve never had a passport. I’ve been nowhere.
So I need all the help I can get. I’m about to go to my happy place. I’m pretty terrified.
Just a little bit, though. Mostly I watch the videos and dream. I want to walk across the tiny island of Iona in the Inner Hebrides, where we’ll spend a few days. Our friend from Glasgow will join us then, our personal Rick Steves, and we’ll explore her hometown before heading east.
I intend to stand on the Pennan beach and look up at the sky, just like Burt Lancaster did in “Local Hero.” I will search for meaning in the stars and wave in the direction of Norway.
And should I see Rick Steves, I’ll wave at him, too. His passion has become entangled with mine now, and I’m glad he’s around. I take goofy pleasure in the fact that he’s from our neck of the woods, and I’m grateful that Rick’s role as global travel guide will make my trip that much more enjoyable.
Never gonna give you up, buddy.