Saturday, January 14, 2006

FULL KILT BOOGIE.

It’s January, and that can mean only one thing—the annual Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA) Sales Conference.

And this year, my employer—Acme Low Carb Tongue-Depressors, Inc.—held it in a new location. Look at the photo on the left. Can you guess where? Can ya? Can ya?

No! Not in a Catholic High School! It was in Edinburgh, Scotland.

That’s me on the left, and my boss—who, despite my ruining the finish on his desktop with a hot pizza in 1998, graciously gave me permission to publish this photo—on the right.

At the risk of being called a brown-noser, this year’s conference was far and away the best I’ve attended. In fact, it was better than many of my past vacations.

Sure, the conference was full of technical presentations, goofy new buzzwords (e.g., “proofability,” “changing fact,” “learnings” and my personal favorite, “best of breed”) and skull-crushing hangovers. But there were three things that made this year’s conference especially memorable: kilts, whisky and haggis.

First, the kilts. For the awards ceremony dinner, Acme rented traditional Scottish attire for all of the men. It was my first time in a kilt, and I must say...I liked it! Kilts are warm and comfy, and they come with a little goat-skin purse (called a “sporran”) that holds your wallet, mobile phone and whisky flask. All in all, it was a helluva sight...100+ newly-enlightened men—from locations as diverse as the US, Finland and Lebanon—dressed in kilts and strutting around like peacocks. Not one embarassed soul in the lot.

This shouldn’t have been surprizing. When you think about it logically, it makes far more sense for a man to wear a skirt than a woman. Men do, after all, have certain design features that make them more susceptible to being squeezed, pinched or chafed by the inseam of a pair of pants. And I don’t need to mention the unique danger that a carelessly tugged zipper presents.

The only downside to wearing a kilt is the logistical challenge posed by the inevitable wee-wee break. Three hands are needed to manage this task. I now understand why women go to the bathroom in pairs.

The second highlight of the conference was the Scotch whisky. No, that’s not a cultural stereotype. Scotch whisky is, in fact, as bountiful in Edinburgh as is Dr. Pepper in Galveston. The menu in our hotel bar sported at least forty different brands. And all of them were single malt.

The third highlight was haggis. Haggis is a black, peppery mixture of sheep’s heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, spices and oats that’s stuffed into a sheep’s intestine and cooked. The photo on the left shows the plate of haggis that I was served. It was an exciting event in my life. Haggis is one of two disgusting foods (the other being durian) that, for years, I’ve been dying to eat. It was worth the wait. Haggis is great stuff!

What a trip! What a country! I should’ve known that Scotland had more to offer than the Bay City Rollers.

35 Comments:

At 8:20 PM, Blogger Franje said...

Hi Sal,
that sounds like a great time! I have always wanted to try haggis too. Ok, you have inspired me. I have to find a Scottish place here that serves it.

Did you find that in general, of all the whiskies you tasted, it is much better over there? Is it any cheaper in Scotland because it is made there?

Really cool pics, too.

 
At 8:40 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Hey Franje:

I can't say whether or not the whiskies are better in Scotland (like many claim with regard to Guiness in Ireland). But for sure, the selection is better. There is an unbelievable selection in the bars and stores that I visited.

The prices for a glass of whisky at the hotel bar was generally around 4 pounds. This was served without ice or water, in a wide-mouthed glass, and just with a two-finger quantity. Just a small taste which, in retrospect, is smart. A little whisky goes a long way.

In the whisky store that I visited in the airport, bottles were generally around 30 pounds.

Of the various regions, I like the whiskies from Islay best. They are the most smokey and (to me, at least) interesting. But then again, I'm a BBQ man.

Fortunately, I didn't need to buy a bottle for home...because I won one at a whisky-tasting event. The bottle I won was an Islay whisky called "Auld Reekie." It's incredibly smokey, and I love the stuff. I've never seen this brand elsewhere.

I'm anxious to return to Scotland for another visit...but without the work obligations.

Sal

 
At 11:01 PM, Anonymous Jo said...

You look fabulous in your kilt! Mike wore a kilt for our wedding. He loves the "fresh air" feel of the thing and my mother loves his knees... I can't figure out why you need 3 hands...

 
At 12:32 AM, Blogger christina said...

"I now understand why women go to the bathroom in pairs."

LOL! another age-old mystery reveals itself!

And you certainly do make a wonderful Scotsman! Is that the McTraglia tartan you're sporting? I did my time as a kilt-wearer attending a girls' private school for high school and dressing up as a member of the Gordon clan every day for five years.

And speaking of haggis - I once took part in a student exchange program to Scotland for 3 glorious weeks when I was in the 10th grade. Some of us managed to convince one poor Canadian fellow -from a different school, obviously - and also not the sharpest knife in the drawer (although he *could* open a beer bottle with his teeth, which came in very handy on that trip), that haggis was a little grey animal that ran around in the Scottish Highlands. The poor guy spent the whole time trying to get a picture of the elusive beast to show his family back home.

 
At 1:02 AM, Anonymous JRPfeff said...

Sal,

Very cool event. Are you getting ideas for haggis on your WSM?

I had a tutorial on malts from an English colleague. Ice - never. Water, only allowed after sampling the malt straight and checking your PDA database. I favor the Islay's, too.

You failed to mention Scotland's two greatest contributions to the sporting world: golf and curling. Possibly the only two sports that can be played successfully in kilts.

Jim

 
At 11:11 AM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Granny Jo: Mike wore a kilt to your wedding? Awesome! And given his description of the "fresh air" feel, I must've worn it "commando." I chickened-out in that regard. Too many jokers at the conference...plus, our H/R manager was there and she's female. As for the three hands question, perhaps Christina can explain. Which brings me to...

Christina: There is a haggis animal, but it's not grey. It's white and has a wooly coat. Pity that the Internet wasn't prevalent in your college days; otherwise, you never would've tricked your dullard Canadian friend. Born in Canada, schooled for a time in Scotland, living in Germany...you're like the entire UN wrapped into one person.

Jim! My cheesehead friend. You've made the leap across websites. Thanks for checking in. We have some other Wisconsin folk in our little circle here. Regarding your question, I DID have a flash of WSM-related inspiration while in Edinburgh...but it had nothing to do with haggis. I was thinking...what if we take of bottle of plain-Jane Scotch (like Johnny Walker or Dewars), fill the water pan with it, and then smoke it for an hour. Will it then taste like Islay? Ridiculous idea, I know. But if it works, then THAT would be a great justification for buying a Brinkman pan. ;-) Perhaps we can convince Chris to add another category to the Discussion Boards. "Whisky on the WSM." Imagine the discussions that category would generate. "Butts over Ballantine." "BWITU." Sorry...nobody else understands what the hell we're talking about.

Sal

 
At 11:14 AM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

CORRECTION!

Granny Jo: There's a typo in my message above. The third sentence is supposed to read, "...HE must've worn it "commando."

Not "I must've."

Man! I wish Blogger would add an edit function to these comment boards. Either that, or I must start proof-reading better. Or proof-reading at all.

Sal

 
At 3:01 PM, Blogger hippo_pepperpot said...

Dude!!! Kilts are just damn sexy! You look smashing to say the least.

 
At 3:07 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

[BLUSH!]

 
At 3:22 AM, Anonymous Kick Shoe said...

I concur with the above. You all do look dashing. I could fall in love with men in kilts. I love the bagpipes too.

Yoda!

 
At 1:48 PM, Blogger christina said...

Kick Shoe said "I could fall in love with men in kilts."

So funny but so true! Women are a strange bunch, aren't they?

Attention all men: wear more skirts!

Sal, can you do a Scottish accent?

 
At 7:13 PM, Anonymous Jo said...

Kilts AND long hair! I don't know why, maybe cause I'm a kid of the 60's, but long hair on a guy is SO sexy! The kilt just makes it extra yummy.

Sal, my Mike doesn't need an excuse to take his clothes off. He doesn't have a, shall we say "hesitant" bone in his body. Attending his wedding in a skirt with no undies was one of the highlights of his life! ::grin::

As for the malt business... what is meant by single & double? Talking about smoking the liquor has made notions of distilling some of our meade then aging it in a smoked barrel dance about my brain. I'm no fan of whiskey, but meade might be rather fabulous this way.

 
At 7:15 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

So...the secret to getting into a woman's skirt is to wear one yourself?

How ironic. I wish someone had told me this when I was in high school.

I hope my nephews are taking notes.

- Sal MacGregor -

 
At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Tim said...

Yo,
single malt means it comes from a single origin - a single batch from a single distillery.
The alternative is a blend - they take several whiskies and blend them to give a consistent flavour (and perhaps try to give a sum that is greater than its parts?). I'm sure there are other nuances too.

 
At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Francaise de Coeur said...

Monsieur DeTraglia--
Didn't see a way to send an e-mail, so thought I would post a quick comment.

Although I need another thing to read like I need a hole in my head right now, although I know very little about Spain*, and although I also must come up with my own Expatica (France) posts each week, I still make time for your blog.

Hilarious.

*Other than a bit around the Northern part, I guess - our vacation apartment is in Collioure, near Perpignan.

 
At 1:55 PM, Anonymous Francaise de Coeur said...

Don't let him fool you, ladies -- there is an edit function :-)

 
At 5:10 PM, Anonymous Jo said...

::grin:: If Mike knew about the skirt thing as a kid, he might not have been available when I found him!

Thanks for the explanation on the malt issue. That's rather interesting. I'm one for understanding the nuances of individuals more than getting consistent flavor. Perhaps that comes of being a gardner and recognizing that different years provoke different flavors thanks to the varients of soil, wind, sun, and so much else. With our honey, we label according to location of collection and time of year of collection rather than the type of flower. This has become vey important to folks who use our honey medicinally. Interesting topic...

 
At 7:49 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Hey Ms. de Coeur!

I plead guilty to negligence. The last time I checked Expatica France, Petite Anglais was writing the Expat Blog. That tells you how long it's been.

But alas...I now know that the Petit one (who was a fine writer, but a bit somber for my taste) has moved onto greener pastures (perhaps the New Yorker...or perhaps Field & Stream) and you've taken over the reigns.

So...I surfed over to the Expat Blog (Part Deux) this afternoon and was pleased to discover that you are NOT somber.

Let me therefore say a belated "Welcome to the team!" I look forward to meeting you at Expatica's "Expat Blogger Annual Meeting" in Monaco next week. You did receive the invitation, right?

I've also added a link to my side bar so that all my visitors can click-on over, read your essays, and then send flattering emails to Simon (our chief Editor).

Sal

 
At 11:37 PM, Anonymous Francaise de Coeur said...

Sal! WTF?!? I now have a bone to pick with this Simon; I most certainly did *not* get an invitation!

How can that happen? Five countries, five expat bloggers...Monaco is *in* mine, and I didn't get invited?

But I *love* Monaco...

Here's the kicker: As of next month, we are permanently relocating to Avignon (only a couple of hours' drive from Monte Carlo); maybe my editor thought I was too busy getting ready to move?

Maybe it's the new little baby I popped out a few weeks ago??

Beurk...

Me. Not especially somber, no. But please don't read the 'image-shattering' two most recent posts on my personal blog, then.

While not especially somber, the graduate-level Sociology ponderings might leave you a bit freaked (so I just finished reading "Ideology and Utopia", don't ask...)

As it stands, I love a man who can make me laugh and you fit the bill, you.

Oh, and you are now recipro-linked Chez de Coeur...

 
At 4:09 AM, Blogger milgwimper said...

Sal,

I have to concur with the previous posters you do look quite smashing in a kilt. I think for a long time I had kilted men as my "prince in tarten skirt"...LOL Funny though I didn't marry one, but I am still working on him wearing a kilt.

Jo,

Hmmm are you going to write the notes down for the boys or shall I? *evil grin*

 
At 8:38 AM, Blogger christina said...

Didn't I tell you so? Sal puts on a skirt and whips out his wicked sense of humour and women from all over the world flock to his blog declaring their undying love!

Or something. :-)

 
At 9:33 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Ms. de Coeur: You have two babies and still find time to write your Expatica column? Man! But then again...with two babies, you probably do most of your writing at 3am. BTW...I was just joking about the Monaco trip. We're only going Paris. You did get your invitation, didn't you? Thanks for the link.

Mills: Thanks for the kilt compliment. This has been a real eye-opener. I'm seriously thinking about taking it a step further and wearing a bra.

Christina: The "or something" option is more likely.

Sal

 
At 1:08 AM, Anonymous Francaise de Coeur said...

Sal, funny you should mention it, but it's just now turning 1:00 a.m. and it looks like I'm just now getting up for the night.

"Night Writer", that would be me.

Are you going to tell me you were kidding about the Paris thingie, too?

Because, no, I seriously did not get an invitation! And I LIVE in Paris!

WTF?!?! (Pardon my French...)

 
At 1:26 AM, Anonymous Jo said...

NOOOooo ooo NO BRA! What you need is what is called a "hunter's jacket". We had to custom make one for Mike because they couldn't be had for less than $400 at the time and place. Sort of a vest with "tabs" at the hem. The tabs conceal wee little pockets, perfect for golf balls and fishing lures. Better yet, the tied together sleeves thingie worn by "Ashitaka the Warrior" in "Princess Mononoke". That way your pert manly nipples would be displayed in all their glory! Gads, if men only realized what women REALLY want them to dress like....

 
At 2:08 PM, Blogger christina said...

"pert manly nipples"??!!

Oh my heavens, get the smelling salts, I think I'm going to faint!

 
At 9:03 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Granny Jo: You're to be commended. It isn't every day that I see "pert nipples" and "manly" used in the same sentence.

Ms. de Couer: Just kidding about Paris. The conference is in Prague. You did receive an invitation, didn't you?

Christina: The irony is that I almost...ALMOST had Tipper Gore convinced to visit this blog. Now she'll never come.

Sal

 
At 10:00 PM, Anonymous Francaise de Coeur said...

Smartass.

 
At 1:18 AM, Anonymous Jo said...

::wipes away the tears of laughter:: Being a woman of some... ummm... ::ponders:: acquired wisdom shall we say? Suffice it to say that a man's nipples much more likely to fall into the "pert" category than most women's. Worse yet, they stay there when they get there. ::sigh::

You never know, ol' Tipper may be closer than you think... ::wink::

 
At 12:05 PM, Blogger christina said...

Jo - LOL! It's just not fair, is it?

Sal - I'm confused (I'm Canadian, remember?) Is it desireable to have Tipper Gore visit ones blog? :-)

 
At 12:14 PM, Blogger Ginnie said...

I had to read every word of this "in remembrance" of when Donica went to probably the same place last year through her pharmaceutical company. Only thing different is that everyone, including the women, dressed in these outfits...even down to the shoes!

What a riot!

 
At 5:36 PM, Anonymous Culinary Fool said...

Wow! I thought there were too many comments on this post yesterday and they continue to pile up. You can almost feel the buzz in the air!

Since you have enjoyed your kilt experience so much (by the way, what's the reason some guys have their shoelaces tied up the leg and some just around the ankle? Lack of calf muscle?? ;->) the next time you are in Seattle I'll make sure you stop by the Utilikilts store. (http://www.utilikilts.com/)

Kilts are not just for special occasions anymore!

Cousin Fool

 
At 10:20 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Cousinary Fool: Yeah, we seem to have broken records in the Comments Department with this post. Trying to keep up should explain why I haven't had time to write anything for The Spirit World lately. To answer you question about the different shoe-lacing techniques, it's simple. I tied mine correctly (i.e., precisely according to the instructions provided in my garment bag). Some of the others opted for a less-traditional "fishnet stocking" look. I figured that a skirt AND fishnet stockings was a bit ambitious for my first time.

Ginne: So you've stolen the heart of the VTB's favorite Germany blogger. Welcome to our inner circle. I think you'll find your stay as compelling as it is disturbing. I hope Donica had as much fun in Edinburgh as I did.

Christina: You can certainly live a fulfilling life without knowing squat about Tipper Gore. But since you asked...she is Al Gore's wife. In the 1980's, she decided to make a name for herself by fabricating a controversy about the danger to kids posed by naughty song lyrics. The US Congress decided to hold some public hearings, in which the late, great Frank Zappa gave a bunch of oily politicians a master class in the meaning of "cool." Since then, she's been a pop-culture's Patron Saint of Tight-asses.

Sal

 
At 2:12 AM, Anonymous Jo said...

Christina - OH so very unfair huh!! On the other hand, I much prefer the look on men than women ;o)

Sal - I must add to CulFools comment regarding the UtiliKilts. I've seen them in action and they are quite attractive as well as useful.

We have an annual Fantasy/Sci Fi convention around here called BayCon and there are loads of them running around there. I hear nothing but praise from the wearers.

 
At 10:50 PM, Blogger christina said...

Aha. Well, I knew who Tipper Gore was, just not what she stood for. I'll take Frank Zappa over Tipper any day. I bet he would have looked great in a kilt!

(34 comments!! Whoo! Next time try posting a picture of your favourite shoes and see what happens. :-))

 
At 2:37 PM, Blogger Betty said...

I once attended a Scottish Festival in the Los Angeles area. One of the events was "haggis throwing" by the women. I'm not sure I could've touched it after seeing that photo. Ick.

 

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