Since it is still below the freezing mark here in NYC, it is time for more retro travel.
Let me take you to Edinburgh, February 2010, where the unexpected happened and we had one of those nights that will be talked about forever, but that no one will ever really believe…
Three of my friends and I met up in Scotland to follow our favorite band, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, on their first UK tour. When we travel as a group it is to some destination, near or far to hear this band play. They are kind of the reason we all became friends… but that’s another story.
This story begins just after the Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers’ concert ended. We were four American women ranging in age from 26 to almost 50 ( that will come in handy later) running on post show adrenaline and were in need of a watering hole. So we did what any group of adventurous travelers would do… We turned right and then left and then went into the first pub we saw. This pub, The White Horse Cellar Bar, was only entered because there was once a local hangout by the same name, back in the day in NYC.
We walk into a brightly lit space and are greeted by stares from the crowd, which I would guess averages at least twenty years older than our oldest group member. There are groups of… well… let’s just say it… fairly old people , enjoying what I would call old people drinks. Cordials, brandy, scotch on the rocks, etc. We all make a silent decision to have one drink, because we are already inside and then get the heck out of dodge. We all order a beverage and take the last available table, right next to the evening’s entertainment. The “entertainment” is a 65-plus-year-old-man with a karaoke machine. It is not karaoke night, he simply sings songs with his karaoke machine. I whisper to my friend, “I wonder if he knows Lady Gaga?”… and suddenly something magical happened. Something that will go down in the records of The White Horse Cellar Bar.
He suddenly bursts out with “Rah Rah ohh lala” and then proceeds to sing the entire song. We pass him a note that says it is our friend’s birthday and she is from NYC. After Lady Gaga he goes right into “Coming to America.” The crowd is still a bit uneasy but they are beginning to at least relax and the karaoke singer begins to sing “New York New York.” The four of us get up and begin to dance, which I am certain hasn’t happened in this bar in at least 40 years. About halfway through we are joined by the oldest member of the crowd, a darling little old lady named Isabella. She links arms with us and joins our kick line. I’m not really sure what happened next, but the next time I noticed the place was packed, the bar tender was frazzled and everyone was on their feet. There was barely standing room only at the bar. People were coming in off the street to see what all the commotion was about. A hen party in its entirely came in, wasted already, and began to dance and sing. The music had shifted from Sinatra to Bowie, more Gaga, Britney, Justin, Christina and all of the other loud obnoxious popular music. There were no seats, there was nowhere to stand, but the crowd kept getting bigger. Three young guys around 19 walked in and those women in that hen party had a field day. They were dancing and trying to pull the boys shirts off, trying to kiss them , and nobody cared. The old men were dancing with us and twirling us all over the floor. The old ladies were dancing with the young guys. Drinks were flowing and my friends and I were having the time of our lives. Everyone was.
I am pretty sure the bar ran out of everything. They probably hadn’t sold that many drinks in the last ten years. Eventually Isabella, sat down and began to put on her coat. We knew that it was now time to head back to our hotel, but not before the entire bar sang happy birthday to my friend, and the staff signed a post card for her and everyone had a giant group hug. Edinburgh, though “Something unpredictable that in the end is right,” will go down in history as the city that surprised me the most.
The customers at The White Horse Cellar Bar may have gone back to their old ways the very next day, I’ll never know, but I have a feeling that every now and then they smile and fondly remember the American girls who changed everything in one night.
“Is it true its always happy hour here? Well if it is, I’d like to stay awhile. And as cliché as it may sound, I’d like to raise another round, and if your bottle’s empty, help yourself to mine. Thank you for your time and here’s to life.” ~~ Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Mekong
Me, in Edinburgh