Pin It

Chances Are? Questioning coincidence at Edinburgh Castle 

Wednesday, Apr 15 2009
Comments

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who believe in coincidence, and those who don't. I'm not sure which category I fall into yet.

The folks who don't believe in fate claim we're much more likely to remember things that seem coincidental than those that don't, so we then ascribe the former situation greater meaning. For example, the other morning I was on the bus, thinking about how much I miss the Smothers Brothers, and how we were probably due for an earthquake because we haven't had one for a while. Well, sure enough, there was that little jolt centered in San Jose later that morning. "Whoa," I thought. "I'm psychic." Now, at the same time, I didn't run into Tommy Smothers on the street. Of all the thousands of things that went through my head that day, only one of them actually happened. So was that really as freaky as it seemed?

I think our brain makes connections because doing so is pleasurable on some biological level. We tend to migrate toward people who seem familiar, and we do the same thing with thoughts and ideas. How else could I have bonded with the rather red-faced, possibly debauched ex-high-school-soccer-coach–lookin' guy at the other side of the bar at the Edinburgh Castle?

Basically, the guy had been slowly blowing my mind with his jukebox picks, something that always makes me feel instant kinship with total strangers. He began with some very early Who, went into some obscure Buzzcocks, and then played Blondie's "Dreaming." Most of my surprise came from the fact that he didn't look the part, so to speak, to be choosing these selections, but also because he picked the same sort of stuff I would've chosen. "You are killing me softly with your songs," I said to him as he passed by after another round at the jukebox.

As often as I go out, there are precious few times I feel like I could stay at a bar all night, but the Edinburgh Castle makes me want to linger. I like the whole hi-diddly-ho Scottish thing, but the clientele is also genuinely mixed enough to hold my interest indefinitely. The place is composed of weathered wood and big support beams, with a long bar decorated with old English pennies under glass. The sound system astonishes me, and you really get what you pay for when you load up the jukebox. I had a hankerin' for George Jones, and picked "He Stopped Loving Her Today" because I knew the sweeping violins would sound pretty transcendent coming through the pub's speakers.

The bartender was busy refilling the straw containers, cutting fruit, and generally performing tasks usually delegated to the closing crew. I brought this up. She laughed. "Well ..." she said, with a shrug that denoted "You know how it is when you work at a bar." She had dyed blue hair that matched her plaid shirt. She was down-to-earth and friendly, like pretty much all the bartenders at the Castle.

"Why did he stop loving her?" she asked, referring to George Jones. An excellent question, and one I had asked my mom when I was a kid and first heard the song. I liked this woman.

"He died," I replied, explaining that in the song Jones describes loving a woman until the day he keels over, which he had apparently done, and wasn't that deep? She concurred. I thought about expounding further on the lyrics, getting into the idea that it was sort of lame that he stopped loving her, and wouldn't it have been more romantic if he'd expressed eternal love. I'm sure she would have agreed if she hadn't suddenly been inundated with customers.

I also thought the bartender would appreciate a segue into a discussion of songs that take place at funerals, like "Teen Angel" and possibly "One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men. I just know she would have been agreeable to that topic, because when I walked in, she was playing a Celtic-inspired Buffy Sainte-Marie record. People who listen to Celtic-inspired Buffy Sainte-Marie records are either 70-year-old hippies who never left the ashram, or young and interesting bartenders whom I want to be my friend, and would appreciate a discussion on funeral soundtracks.

I made a point to bring up Buffy Sainte-Marie when the bartender wasn't busy, because when else would I have a chance to discuss the singer? I knew that Sainte-Marie had named her son Dakota Starblanket Wolfsomething, and that she breastfed her infant son on Sesame Street, which I remember watching and being sort of grossed out by. But instead all I could say about her was, "She wore feathers in her hair."

"She was a Native American, right?" the bartender asked. "Yeah," I said.

"So I guess she had a good excuse."

We laughed. (As it turns out, Sainte-Marie is a Native Canadian.) I added that if the bartender liked the whole Celtic thing, she should check out Sandy Denny, whom I love, and who died by falling down the stairs. I had to work death into the conversation somehow. The bartender unfortunately had to keep working.

I was waiting for two other friends to show up. I must've gotten our meeting time wrong, because I was able to get pretty tipsy — on two beers and one whiskey — when they hadn't arrived after an hour and a half. I decided to order some food, even though I knew my friends might be miffed that I ate already. All of the menu items at the Edinburgh Castle are fried and are mainly of the fish variety, so I ordered the Chelsea Combo — scallops and oysters with chips. The meal is presented in a cute little octagonal package, folded up in newspaper and steaming hot.

Sure enough, right after I asked for the Chelsea, my friends walked in, and I had to apologize for already ordering. Now, is Murphy's Law somehow related to coincidence? I know for a fact, for example, that if I want a traffic light to change, I simply have to start applying eye makeup. I also know that if I call in sick to work with a fake ailment, I will invariably be struck with the same affliction within a week.

So what do you make of the end of my evening, gentle reader? On the BART ride home, a pair of record nerds were discussing old country music in the seats across from me. No less a person than George Jones came up, as well as the fact that people always play "He Stopped Loving Her Today" on jukeboxes when really his coolest stuff was recorded earlier than that. I didn't know whether to feel offended or freaked out at the, yes, coincidence.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair

Related Locations

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed