Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Time In Edinburgh

I'm back in NYC after my stint in Edinburgh, slowly recovering from jet lag, and the exchange rate. The week of shows I did were a ton (sorry, tonne) of fun, and it was great to see the famous Fringe Festival (along with the 387 other concurrent festivals) up close and personal.

As my first-ever shows in the U.K., I was excited to see that my material played well on the other side of the Atlantic, and that funny is funny. Especially gratifying was my guest spot in the Liar show, where I not only told a story sans guitar and got solid laughs, I got to meet and perform with some British-based comedians.

All in all, a pretty damn good trip. I hope to get back in the near future to do a more extensive run through the U.K. and possibly Europe, and maybe a full-blown show in the Fringe at some point too...

So here are some pics from my adventure in Harry Potter/Jeckyl & Hyde land. To the left I'm standing in front of the Craggs, the remnants of a defunct volcano that overlooks the city. The peak below is Arthur's Seat in Holyrood Park and that little winding trail going up the middle is what I hiked up to check out the view.
And finally, the pic from the top, just to prove I made it.

The border agents on the way out weren't quite as hostile as the ones on the way in, though the woman at Heathrow did confiscate a pair needlenose pliers from my guitar case. I thought about explaining to her that I had already taken the pliers on three previous flights to and through the U.K. but figured I should just be happy she wasn't asking for any paperwork and settle for getting back to my home country without too much hassle.

Now it's time to go into Scottish food detox so I can be ready for the fall season. Seriously, deep-fried sausages?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A couple of podcasts from the Fringe

While here in Edinburgh doing my show with Liam at the Meadow Bar I've been fortunate enough to get invited to perform in some other shows. I'm doing Liar tonight at the Belly Laugh stage at the Underbelly Cowgate, and yesterday I did a couple of songs at Sowerby & Luff's Sex Tips for Pandas show, which is now available as a podcast.

After the show they interviewed me about my Edinburgh experience thus far for the official Fringe podcast, which should be available here.

And it's actually sunny right now (Rob says, crossing his fingers, knocking on wood and generally looking out for lightning and such)!

I'd like to actually say "it's raining" without someone responding with, "welcome to Scotland." It's like in New York, no one ever says "welcome to New York" after something good happens. It's always, "I just got pushed off of a subway train!" "Welcome to New York!"

That doesn't make me feel welcome at all.

Today's crowd was great. It's so cool that people are coming out for a show at noon, especially in a town where the bars are open till 5 in the morning.

Well, maybe they were actually still here from the bar the night before...

Either way, they were awesome and I'm having a blast doing the shows here. Hopefully I'll get some video of it up soon.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Rob P (the imposter)'s U.K. Debut

My illustrious U.K. debut was actually postponed by a day because the first set I was scheduled to do got bumped. In the country one day and already I was bumped. Yikes. But I'll be doing that show again (hopefully) on Sunday so it's all good.

May actual debut was Thursday at noon (7 am New York time) and it was a lot of fun, even though I still wasn't quite adjusted time-wise. The day before, Liam got a great write-up in the Scotsman, the daily newspaper here, and it's definitely brought people in the last couple of days. The only odd thing for me was that the review raved about the woman who was on the bill with him the first few days of the fest, Ophira Eisenberg.

She's a friend of mine and I was really excited about her review, my only worry is that now people may be coming expecting a hilarious Canadian woman and in her place is an (equally) hilarious American guy playing the guitar.

So far no one has complained, and the shows have gone really well. Thursday was a smaller crowd of about a dozen very supportive folks, and today was almost full, and as I was walking around the streets of Edinburgh I even got recognized by someone who was at the show, which is now small feat considering there are a couple thousand shows and tens of thousands of people here to see them.

So things are improving much since I managed to make it through customs. For my trip out I'm picturing a Midnight Express-type scene of me beings stopped by the police on the tarmac and having them discover contraband comedy taped to my chest.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

British women must hate me...

I'm sure it's a coincidence, but in the last two weeks of international travel the two rudest people I've met have been British women. First was the hotel clerk in Belize and in a close second the woman at passport control yesterday at Heathrow.

It started out normally enough. She asked me where I was headed. Edinburgh. Purpose? The festival. How long would I be staying there? 10 days.

This was all perfectly curt and proper. Then she asked for my return ticket.

"I don't have it printed out yet."

"Why not?"

"It's an electronic ticket," I say, thinking that would explain it. It doesn't. I add, "I have the flight number and date, do you want that?"

"You don't have anything printed out?"

"It's an electronic ticket," I restate. It's all I can muster to explain my lack of a printout. Weren't electronic tickets created specifically to eliminate the need to have a piece of paper in your hand?

She stares.

"No one told me I needed to print out my return ticket."

"No one should have to tell you, it's common sense."

Common sense? To print out a boarding card for a flight ten days from now? Not buying it.

"I've never had to print out a return ticket before."

"Well you're traveling internationally and it's common sense."

There's that common sense argument again.

I counter with, "I just went to Belize last week and I didn't need to have my return ticket printed out." Which is in fact true, and last time I checked U.S. to Belize is 'international.'

"You're in the U.K." she says emphatically.


See what happens? You treat me like I'm stupid and you get sarcasm.

Neither one of us says anything for a moment.

Finally she asks, "do you have the information on where you'll be staying?"

"Yes, a hotel in Edinburgh. I have the confirmation number."

I dig into my bag and pull out my calendar. I open it up and look at today's date where I've written down my hotel info.

"You just have it written down?"


"You don't have anything printed?"
Again with the printing! How is something I print out at home better than a confirmation number I have written down? Is my HP inkjet printer now capable of printing official international documents? (mental note, print up some Swiss bonds when I get home).

"Well, I didn't know and I don't have a ticket printed so where can we go from here?"

"There's no where to go, I have nothing to show how long you're going to be staying or when you'll be leaving."

Believe me, I won't stay in this country any longer than I have to if this is an example of British charm. At this point I think I may actually be denied entry into the U.K.

"Is there internet service here so I can go online and get what you need?"

"There is but it's in the terminal."

"How else could get you the documentation you want, maybe I could go to the American Airlines counter and have them print out my return itinerary?"

She stammers at my offers to resolve the situation, which makes me think this is more about making me feel uncomfortable than enforcing a strict You Must Hve Printouts rule.

She shakes her head and stamps my passport.

"Thank you," I say. But, still aggravated by the experience I add, "if it's my first time traveling in the U.K. then it's not common sense to know what you need here."

"That's a matter of opinion," she says haughtily.

"Well, thank you for sharing your opinion," I say mostly to myself as I pick up my bags.

"Your most welcome" she throws back at me as I zig-zag through the maze of stanchions to the next stop in the gauntlet of international travel, all of which were a lot easier than her.

Perhaps she radioed ahead, "stupid American coming through. He doesn't have anything printed out! Watch it! "

At least she didn't ask about the 3 kilos of hash I had stashed in my suitcase.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Preparing for Scotland in Central America

I needed to prepare for my trip to Edinburgh so I decided to go to the place where Americans always train covertly for missions: Central America.

O.K. Maybe I just wanted to cash in some frequent flyer miles and hit a coral reef for a while so I went to Belize, but I'm starting to think scheduling a Caribbean excursion two days before I head to Scotland where it's going to be a balmy 61 degrees F and rainy wasn't a good idea.

Also, going from a place where the currency is 2:1 in favor of the dollar to a place where it's 1:2 the other way around is going to be tough.

"Five pounds? Sure I can afford two of tho... Oh wait, I need a loan."

Edinburgh's going to be a blast though, if you can make it out to one of the shows, get your kilt on and come on up!

Rob P. @ Meadow Bar
August 7-13
42-44 Buccleuch St.