A friend, we'll call her Erika, was the childhood victim of enforced cultural rites. Growing up in the 1980s in San Bernardino, wishing for blonder hair, a better bikini, and the perfect routine for her cheerleading squad, Erika instead had to endure her Scottish family's yearly homage to poet Robert Burns. "It was so mortifying," she says today. "It was all grown-ups in kilts eating haggis, drinking whiskey, and reciting that old, old poetry in some dark bar. It was, like, the opposite of the mall, where I wanted to be." Strongly encouraged to embrace her heritage, the young woman consented to competitive Highland dancing, light bagpiping, and attending the annual Scottish Games, but insisted she went only to "check out the cute piper guys."
Now an adult and completely recovered from the whole cheerleading thing (although not from the color pink), Erika brightens visibly at the mention of a local Burns celebration. "Oh, they're really going to pipe in the haggis? Cool!" she enthuses. Having developed a taste for scotch, poetry, and endearing round bellies swathed in tartan (if not for sheep's bladder pudding), Erika mourns her fate: She lives in Los Angeles, not San Francisco. "There are no dark bars at all, let alone a Scottish one."
Admission is $10 and includes a free buffet
If she only knew the full extent of the elaborate Burns Nightplanned at the Edinburgh Castle, a place replete with about a million kinds of scotch. Could a reformed Valley Girl resist the call of such entertainments as author Alan Black's rendition of Burns' immortal "Address Tae a Haggis," Harold Wilkes' booming bagpipe, and the variety of poetry and music that customarily follows the feasting? Because Erika possesses the inevitably horrible Scottish sense of humor, the last straw for her might be the promised reading of an unfortunate Internet-borne Burns parody, "Tae a Fert." Look for a tall blonde trying to show someone the sword dance.