Glasgow scrapyard


What is more random than a Glasgow car scrapyard fire that burned for 17 hours and knocked out power for loads of people? Lots of things; I am feeling random now.

When I think of the dynamics of Glasgow, and the deep, protective, abiding love I feel for it, I am (as usual) pulled in two directions. In one direction, I want to defend all the naysayers who talk shit about this fine city, citing its reputation as ‘murder capital of Europe‘ and the ‘Glasgow smile’ and ‘love’ of knives. But at the same time, in the complete opposite direction, I want to protect it from hordes of people suddenly turning up. I felt the same way about Seattle – preferring to proffer eyewitness testimony supporting its reputation as a dreary, rain-soaked place 362 days a year (not true, but in true Washingtonian fashion, I always wanted to keep everyone else out; western Washington’s beauty and charms were, seemingly, a well-kept secret. Past tense). I tend to like the more livable, industrial cities: Glasgow over Edinburgh (which is, according to some, “England #2”), Gothenburg over Stockholm (see the hard-G pattern there?). It’s not that Edinburgh and Stockholm are not the loveliest of places, but in some way, they feel to me like they lack a soul.


Smoke rising in the distance; Kibble Palace, Glasgow Botanic Gardens

This week there was a big fire at a scrapyard in Govan (in Glasgow). See images. Even though I post these pictures of “Glasgow on fire” (haha), well, the city certainly is not.

Rat Trap


Whenever I use the term “rat trap”, my first thought is RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens). The acronym for the Paris region transport authority: yes, it may as well be a rat trap. Long ago memories of all those days and evenings wandering Paris. “It’s a rat trap, and you’ve been caught.” Long ago, far away. These memories mark periods of life that were meant to be temporary and can’t be kept up.

On a similar, if roundabout, theme, I ended up in a conversation about the graphic images that appear on cigarette packaging – the dire consequences of smoking, such as erectile dysfunction. This led to a discussion on the phrase “keep it up”, which prompted me to mention a conversation from a few weeks ago about, of all things, the Boomtown Rats. Someone told me he only knew two BR songs, “I Don’t Like Mondays” and “Rat Trap”, and I think we’d be safe to say that that alone is rather extensive knowledge for most people to have on this subject. That said, I have, if not encyclopedic, almost exhaustive knowledge about the BR discography, having become completely obsessed with Bob Geldof while I was in junior high school. Thus, I knew, thanks to a .99 cent bargain bin vinyl copy of BR’s 1979 album The Fine Art of Surfacing, that they had a song called “Keep It Up”.

Let’s face it, the Rats were not particularly popular or well-known, existed in a particular place and era and sounded of that time. Not to add that the singular force of the Bob Geldof persona overshadowed anything the band could have done. I am not sure, despite Geldof’s notoriety and the stranger (Pink Floyd’s The Wall) bigger things he has done (Live Aid), that he would be an easily recognizable name to most Americans, for example.

That was another theme of the conversation – “Keep It Up” brings to mind Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up”, which came just a year before the Rats’ anthem to keeping it upright. When looked at side by side, at the pop culture longevity (and really, what within pop culture enjoys longevity?), the Rats are a blip on the radar and unmemorable, while Costello is still cranking out challenging and interesting music, even if it doesn’t always hit the mark. And “Keep It Up”, despite its energy, sounds like the dying notes of the 1970s and fits firmly in the museum of that decade, while “Pump It Up” still sounds cool and, like much of Costello’s work, timeless.

Time itself is a bit of a rat trap, especially if you’ve defined yourself, your look, your sound, by the fashions of your day.