Monday, March 14, 2011

The Tartan

Here’s to it!
The fighting sheen of it.
The yellow, the green of it.
The white, the blue of it.
The swing, the hue of it.
The dark, the red of it.
Every thread of it!
The fair have sighed for it.
The brave have died for it.
Foemen sought for it.
Honour the name of it.
Drink to the fame of it.
The Tartan.
-Unknown

This poem hangs on the wall of a restaurant where I love to go to in the mountains of North Carolina.  Every time I eat there I think that I will someday use it at the beginning of a book about some handsome highlander that lived long ago.  However, I seem to only be dreaming in Regency England at the moment, so I thought I would share it.  I can remember eating at The Tartan Restaurant as a little girl with my family.  I come from a family that has always been very proud of its Scottish roots, so a themed restaurant at the foot of Grandfather Mountain was the logical choice when we attended the Highland Games.  It’s also not uncommon to wake up to bag pipe music at 7:30 am on Saturday mornings at my parent’s house, but that is another blog for another day.  In recent years Mr. Alpha Male and I have become regulars there mostly due to his love of country ham, my daily need for coffee and the fact that it is the only restaurant within five minutes drive of the house.  And it is the perfect place for one of my favorite pastimes, people watching.
The Tartan is one of those places where only the locals eat and most of them have blue hair.  The walls are dripping in Scottish folklore and there is plaid covering every surface lying in wait for the annual Highland Games.  Yet, filling the tables inside the restaurant on the other fifty one weekends of the year are all the simple mountain folks that stopped in for a sandwich or a cup of coffee.  Friends are hailed from across the room as neighbors and acquaintances pause to say hello.  It makes an interesting mix of foreign and local that I find irresistible.  Keep your swanky bistros and your elegant fine dining establishments, I just want to people watch from my booth at The Tartan.
“I brought you some extra country ham.  Didn’t think that servin’ they gave you in the kitchen looked like enough for ya,” Diane offered as she slid another small plate onto our table.  Mr. Alpha Male thanked her as I continued to munch on my French toast. 
“How’s that baby o’ yers?”
“Well, ya know, my chickens roost in that tree in the yard every night.”
“Is that a new shirt ya got there?”
“I hadn’t seen ya round church lately.”
Pieces of conversation swirl around me inspiring questions of who these people are and where they are going when they leave here.  What dramas have they had in their lives?  Have they loved?  Have they lost? Everyone has a back story and ultimately an impending doom, so why not weave them into fiction as I sip my coffee?  Could I ask for better inspiration than the mountain folks found in The Tartan?  I don’t think so. 
What is your favorite place to people watch?

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