To Vienna, VA, September 19th 2014
I awake to the tragedy of my own people rejecting radical change to cling to the false security of the last flotsam from the shipwreck of the British Empire. I am tuned to BBC Radio London and the glee and jubilation of the powerful spouting forth from the radio is suffocating. I cannot deny that I am very angry. I was angry last night when I saw the way it was going and I am angry this morning in the harsh light of the result and I’ll be angry when I go home. I feel like the hope just got kicked out of me. I feel like I am being held down by a gang of victorious sports fans because I am wearing the wrong colour, walking down the wrong street and have been singing the wrong song. The surprising flame of Scots radicalism that flashed so brilliantly in the heat of this referendum has been snuffed out by a majority who have become so risk averse that they cringe at the prospect of taking any semblance of control from the managerial class who have been quietly rescinding our rights for thirty five years. I know that’s unfair and many understandably cautious voters may have gambled on the safer option of the “increased powers” promised by our overlords. But this is crushing and I’m sad and beyond disappointed. I’m in despair. To have made that journey and crossed that bridge from cynicism to belief to find nothing on the other side? It’s just like being Scottish.
We head out at ten, saying goodbye to Pittsburgh’s rivers, verdant cliffs and bridges on the way. The city receives top marks from the touring party of three. The sun is still blazing and the sky is still bird’s egg blue. After a while we pull off the highway and find a silver sided diner. I make a critical mistake and go local and order “scrapple” which turns out to resemble floppy grey Spam. I try and unpick the eggs and potatoes from its clammy grasp with limited success. I remain deeply unsatisfied.
Autumn has advanced a little further in these parts, coppers and reds now blooming in the wooded rises around us. Virginia creeper entombs a few ossified trunks like a bloody infection as a distant vista occurs on the horizon looking dazzlingly like an ersatz England. For the first time this trip I clamp on the alternative reality of the headphones to remove myself from the world. Randomly, Nick Drake and George Harrison pop up then Edwyn’s awesome Velvet’s tribute, Forsooth. I enter the dream state of motion and music, cruising through my own private movie and leaving all troubles behind. Music allows emotions to make themselves known. They swim around in the space the sound creates. Music is a place where you can find solace and consolation. Chopin, Ariel Pink, Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield offer succour like nothing else can – not even drink.
We check in to our lavish suites – kitchen, lounge and real fireplace. I feel like a Hollywood screenwriter from the 40s. For the second night in a row I watch part of 12 Years A Slave which HBO are showing this week. It didn’t do it for me at the cinema but away from all the hype it stands up well. There is a BBC news channel too and I watch Salmond’s resignation statement. He looks like a man who has been pulled out of a collapsed building. Or like a little boy who just got told his dad has cancer. News of a right-wing fracas in Glasgow’s George Square reaches me via a microblogging service. Jesus. There is also some paranoid stuff about fixed counts which merely amounts to footage of a ballot counter getting her piles mixed up as far as I can tell. Just because we didn’t win is no need to go looking for foul play. The massive media bias against independence was foul enough. I receive texts from friends who have been crying. When does that happen? Two generations of Scots suddenly engaged. They started talking and thinking about what might be possible, about leaving a system so rigged, so deeply corrupt that they’d never considered it might be possible to change it. They started hoping and believing – concepts that don’t come easily to the Scottish psyche. Fuck.
Before the show I wander out and breath the warm night air. Crickets trill like Star Trek gadgets and the evening traffic washes past in oceanic waves. Then suddenly calm descends as the lights all turn red. My country lies out to the east, half in mourning and half in relief.