Glasgow, Scotland


May 23-24, 2000

Watercolours. The sky here is painted with diluted grey and black watercolours.

Returning to "the motherland" as my brother would say appropriately, I am now in the country where my mother (I believe it's pronounced "me mum" here) was born and raised. I was hoping to have something fantastic to say about my first stop, but I can't say that Glasgow's enraptured me in any way. In fact, I ended up leaving a day earlier than expected.

I arrived via an overnight bus from London before 8AM and the city seemed to have more of a problem waking up than I did. The rubiginous buildings made from red Dumfriesshire give some of the crowded areas are darker feel; however, when separated from the city in a park, it gives an earthy personality to the structures, which apparently are appreciated and studied by architectural students from around the continent. Many of these buildings I'd walk by without noticing anything special.

There are some fantastic small museums here though. For example, the Modern Art Museum was the first display of modern art that I very much appreciated. Three works locked my eyes to the flat white walls: the 3D paintings of Patrick Huges (Jubilee 1995) and Sebastiáo Salgado's gripping photography (from the Famine Series and an oil field).

Even the temporary exhibit from autistic artists, Artism2000, was spectacular. Obsessively repetitive themes, unconnected people and "empty eyes," have me wondering what makes these people tick and remembering that I still haven't found that out of print book, I Don't Want to Be Inside Me Anymore, written by an autistic author.

The people here are friendly, but it takes some initiative to get them going. There's a whispered hustle about the city during the day like being in a university library during final exam week. At rush hour a handful of people at a time flow out of the buildings and disappear around nearby corners.

The Saint Mungo Museum of Religious Life & Art gives a small perspective from religions around the world to promote a better understanding of people of all religions, including those with no religion at all. Imagine giving up your body, friends and everything else… the afterlife? Personally, I'm ready for all the fuss. Worry about it when the time comes, or better yet, look forward to it as a place I've never been. I suppose it's like getting a one way ticket to a place without an Internet connection. Yikes! Would Dali portray this view in Christ of Saint John of the Cross today?

Out the back, through Britain's only Zen garden, is the nearly 1000 year old Reformation Gothic cathedral adorning flags so old that some colours (I'm in the UK now and that's how it's spelled according to the Queen's English) have aged leaving completely transparent patterns hanging high above like ghosts. The church comfortably lacks the gaudiness of the Spanish cathedrals. In fact, the large areas void of pews make it even more impressive.

Hundreds of years of marching Christian soldiers have slopped the side stairway passages that reveal a cozy one room apartment in "the lower church" and the crypt. One of the graves has a massive chip in the opening showing a dark void. If your sense of curiosity overcomes your judgement of creepiness to make you sneak over and feel around inside to see what remains are in there, I can attest this tomb is empty. ;)

It was an early night to bed to make up for the lost night on the bus and before rushing out of this place, I went off to find the Huntarian Museum, away from the city centre. Despite the tourist office map and my guidebook's places of interest list, this was the place to explore. On the way is one of Scotland's oldest museums with impressive eclectic collections of armour, animal science, geology, and Jurassic fossils.

After a few hours there, I've reached my "back door" museum, the Huntarian within Glasgow University. Inside lies what is touted to be the oldest known object: a rock that has fallen from the sky aged at 4,580,000,000 years old. An interesting collection of metallic meteorite fragments shows insight into what the core of the Earth is probably like.

There's also a great collection of skull reconstructions showing the evolution of man. Most interesting here are the comments about Neanderthal Man (should it say Neanderthal Person?), who had a larger brain than ours, was better built and had ideas of an afterlife: "but lacked artistic expression, [so therefore must be] less intelligent than Modern Man." I wonder if an artist works here.

I hobble around the University grounds a bit with my backpack playing the nerd with the biggest book bag. I'm used to the daily drizzle now. When looking into the weather here, you don't ask if it will rain today in Scotland, but when. I hop on the bus and the rain stops, but the watercolours are never given a chance to dry.


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