It is very rare, in my travel fortune, that there isn’t a moment in which my brother and I taste, by ourselves, the place we’re visiting. With luck, it is at night the marching time, our favorite for such – as such, maybe in a silly curiosity, we appreciate being swallowed by the dark streets and bars, which light up the true nature of the people and their mental grimaces, proper of their nationality.
Daylight is for tourists, the night is for the locals to clean their guns.
What follows, however, is the register of a different experience on that field.
I was visiting Edinburg with the family and it was August, the beginning of the Fringe Festival, the famous performing arts festival (with a highlight on comedy), and that results, every year, in a city of half a million people sodomized for a month by 3 million visitors, countless performers and acts, occupying the total area of a watch.
A final chemistry appealing to the eyes, mine and my brother’s, and inside which we wanted to be, although lost in the ocean of offers that made us apprehensive to follow any direction. Hence, it was while debating this question that we headed towards the city nightlife. It was right after dinner, and we argued for a while still, steep on the streets that climbed to the city center. It was in one of those streets that a young man in a robe, boxer-alike, approached us and launched his act’s net over us.
It was called “Comedy Boxing”, and was based on the oral dispute between two Australian comedians, divided into 3 rounds, at the end of which the public decided who was the best. The one who achieved more victorious rounds won 3 attempts to punch the other in the face. And the net got us. My brother said:
– It seems pretty cool, but I’m not 18 yet, and the flyer says it’s for adults on-
– It’s fine, I let you in. – said the young man in a boxer-like robe
– Let’s go?
And a door opened, right under a policeman’s nose.
A long set of stairs fell beneath our feet. As we descended, I realized we were gradually being dissolved by an underground labyrinth of bars that only stopped on floor -5, all in a dark, mild music environment. We were pointed towards an entrance at -3, and strolled along little-populated bars connected in-between themselves, with only 3 or 4 distant characters.
We ended up in a quirky bar, with dry wells, in which the only light came from the ceiling and was shredded by a cover of hay that clashed with the remaining.
The bar had some booths and we sat in one. We smiled at each other, at the peculiarity of the moment. The show started shortly after.
The two Australian comedians appeared under the spotlight. One of them a red afro and wore velvet shorts; the other, a trimmed mustache and a shirt decorated with flowers, compost from the nickname “Magnum P.I.” that the presenter gave him from the start.
The first round consisted in a normal routine of stand-up comedy: each comedian did his sketch of jokes at a time, and in the middle, they let split a hint at the opponent. I don’t remember any specific jokes or memorable quotes, or in whom I voted at the end of the round; only that the guy with the red afro won and the room was heating up.
The second round called for more skill from the comedian-boxers: they had to comically develop ideas or keywords suggested by members of the audience. Once again, I lost the details through this slice of time, mainly because in that moment I entered a very interesting mental diaspora: I was moving in the city of Edinburgh with the expectation that dictates my whole perception of a different place and of the people that fill it: daylight is for tourists, the night is for the true nature of the locals – but Edinburgh revealed itself as a different son.
This Scottish town was an image of one shot only, composed of diverging shots and perspectives, the same image day and night.
An alcoholized and euphoric inner life, contrasted with the monotonous exterior – even if planted with different colored hair.
Ewan McGregor’s character in Trainspotting came to my mind, consuming heroin inside a house and then coming outside screaming that being Scottish sucks. The initial tepid ambiance of the underground labyrinth occurred to me in that moment – it was the hangover on the outside, its heat already a sign of the awakening of the interior. Hence, the day/night dichotomy was not applicable to this case, but rather the interior/exterior.
I divagated for a good while, only resurfacing with an intervention from my brother: “you look like a gayer Freddie Mercury”. Only then did I realize that the 3rd round had already started, in which the audience insulted the performers and waited for a response. My brother addressed his to Magnum P.I., the owner of the trimmed mustache.
I laughed ostensibly when I realized what was happening and enjoyed the rest of the show. The final winner was Magnum P.I., who was able to punch the other guy in two out of three attempts.
We got out of the labyrinth and sighed of satisfaction. We wanted more, but it was late and we agreed we wouldn’t have the same luck in other shows, all for adults only and, therefore, illegal for my brother.
It was as we walked back to the hotel that I consolidated my external painting of the city: brown, closed inside calm limits, frustrating on its most superficial layer.
However, its interior sparkled and rumbled – it was a celebration.