Thursday, July 31, 2003

Farewell, Aubergine

July's nearly done and — for me, anyway — so is London. I have only one day left with the people in my program, one day in the fanciest places I have ever lived, one day with free internet access, one day in the country that gave the world Jack the Ripper, Johnny Rotten, and Camilla Parker-Bowles. Then Kristen and I leave England, leave Uncle Andy, leave the beaten prostitute district and see the other side of the water. London’s nearly done and I think I’ll miss it.

I will miss Hyde Park Gate despite its dated plumbing fixtures. No, more than dated: radiocarbon-dated. I will miss its proximity to Hyde Park, an expanse of green and brown and blue that the residents of London and their dogs enjoy proudly and every day. I will miss the creaking floors. I will the Dutch embassy and the neverending line of people in the visa application line. (Do that many people want to smoke hash?) I will miss our group’s shared delusion that nasty lurksex toxified the couch in the living room.

I will miss the group.

I will miss Ben’s disinterested stoicism. But I will miss the harem, too. I will miss Chelese and Megan and Apryll-with-a-“y” and Lily whose last name was Field which made her a compound noun. I will miss Melinda/Matilda’s conviction that despite her tiny stature, she can still fit a soul in there. I will miss Tracy’s iconic double ponytail — surely not pigtails. I will miss Shannon’s indomitable optimism I will miss Jihan’s dedicated liberalism. I will miss Kristy’s ready-to-explode nymphomania and Molly’s inky blackness — an entity which only Shannon’s cheerfulness could survive — and Shawna’s drunken inability to hold her loosemeat sandwich. I’ll miss the whole group, excluding the bleeding red thing.

I’ll miss Airplane Window.

Farewell Waitrose. Farewell maple yogurt — no, yoghurt. Farewell lamb and mint-flavored potato chips and physalis and locally brewed Guinness and Tango and — fucking hell! — Cadbury’s creme eggs 365 days a year!

I’ll miss frontal nudity on basic cable after midnight.

Riding subways in other cities won’t have the same Canterbury Tales-like procession that I watched everyday. Chasing pigeons won’t be the same. I can go to other Italian restaurants. Shit — I can go to Italy! But never again will Princess Diana’s favorite one be around the corner. I know I'm never going to be able to bidet my troubles away. Besides, I’m just getting used to colour and honour and programme and those fucking two pence-pieces.

I’m honestly going to miss London. Farewell, aubergine.

It’s the end of July — only two months of summer left. Happily, I can answer the question that has dogged me since college started: where do I go from here? Easy. Munich.

ADDENDUM: I have an unanswered question after all: Who the fuck is Armitage Shanks and why is his name on my toilet?

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

T

Letter of the week: "T." If Mrs. Dalloway has taught me nothing else, Fortnum and Mason are gods among men, and my homeland should promptly adopt the sugar-coated extra meal known as "tea." Nine cups without a psychotic episode: the Royal Blend.

No longer shooting merely myself in the foot without any foresight, I'm kicking the Koopa shell without heed of what unseen, reflective blocks and pipes await it in the screens beyond.

A doubly perplexing email from Jill:
Hey - I just found out there is a gay bar in the Castro call the "Twin Peaks Tavern." No info yet whether or not it is based on the show.

Jill

Cloud Nine

"I am being perfectly calm. I am just outspoken. If it comes to being killed, I will take it as calmly as anyone."
— Caryl Churchill, Cloud Nine

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Hell's Bells and All's Well

A conclusion worthy of ending on:
Do not despair — many are happy much of the time; more eat than starve, more are healthy than sick, more curable than dying; not so many dying as dead; and one of the thieves was saved. Hell's bells and all's well — half the world is at peace with itself, and so is the other half. Vast areas are unpolluted; millions of children grow up without suffering deprivation, and millions, while deprived, grow up without suffering cruelties, and millions, while deprived and cruelly treated, nonetheless grow up. No laughter is sad and many tears are joyful. At the graveside the undertaker doffs his top hat and impregnated the prettiest mourner.
— Tom Stoppard, Jumpers

Monday, July 28, 2003

Lyle and Linda Lurker

So I have this idea for a new sitcom. It's called "Meet the Lurkers." It's about Lyle and Linda Lurker, the creepy couple I now live with. Living with Lyle, an inconsiderate, hairy, and apparently hemophiliac hobbit of a roommate was bad enough. In fact, it was worse than Greg, Kaspar, or Drunko. But now the missus is here too. For an extended visit. In my room. Replete with kissing.

I shudder.

"Fuck God and all his shitty little angels!" — a quote from tonight’s play that I’m too Catholic to say myself. You’d think a play about he court politics of Louis XIV would be high drama enough, but those fucking lurkers have driven the entire group to gossip like bored housewives. Call me fucking Mabel. Apricots, oranges, and cauliflower.

I thought of a name for my column for next year: "Artful Dodging." It's from Oliver Twist. The Artful Dodger is the boy who seduces Oliver into a life of crime and dresses like a grown man — ostensibly, someone whose premature maturity generates comical situations. He's bad but lovably funny, so he gets away with stuff. Maybe it smacks of literary snobbishness, but it’s not like that wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate either. I considered playing on the word "dodgy," but I think "Artful Dodging" sounds better. And of all places, I got this epiphany not from reading Oliver Twist itself, which I didn't like, but from reading a biography on Alan Moore.

The Changing of the Guard kind of blew. I'm all for ritual and ceremony. Fuck, like I said, I've Catholic. But it's not so cool when you gotta stand alongside representatives of every nation on unforgiving cement for more than an hour. "Girl in pink! Please get off the fence!... Girl in red! Could you please get off the fence!... Girl in mauve...." The marching band was pretty good. Is it me, or did they play "Sound of the Swinging Symbol"?

If I had the offer to live at Buckingham Palace, I think I'd pass.

Speaking of old things, Bob Hope died today at the age of 400. Now who shall regale the nation with golf jokes at the president’s expense? In fact, a lot of people have died since I went all British. Barry White, Drewfish, ol' Bobby Hope, and those incorrigible Hussein brothers. Some good, some bad.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Hex Me, Vex Me

I'm not as smart as I thought I was.

See, there's this commercial for Axe Body Deodorant. The first one — not the one with the hot Axe Body Deodorant girl, the one with the guy who puts Axe on in the elevator, only to have the subsequent guy — who's far dorkier — get mauled by some babe who mistakes the lingering, atmospheric musk for the dork's. Anyway, the whole ad — the type of film, the oddly grainy color, the clothes, the outta-the-80s background music — all smack of a European production, much like the way Mentos ads do. Or so I thought.

I get to England and find that Axe doesn't exist here. Instead, they call the same product, but called "Lynx Body Deodorant." (Apparently, words with an "x" in them are cool. . . Rex, vex, hex, fox, lox, Courtney Cox, x-ray, axis, Matix, Matrix, Hexas. Maybe there's something to that. Xanax and Xerox must be the coolest brand names in existence.) But the commercial I saw very clearly shows the bottle with the Axe label I have come to know and love — present variety of choice: Voodoo. Thus, the ad is far from European. Instead, it's just American and lame.

So what must I learn from this little exercise? Aside from deduction that Axe, in its early state, had way low production values, I know now that I should not convince myself of things I am not sure to be true.

And I have too much idle braintime. Call me Mr. X.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Roberta Flack

Meg's response to my email, in which I explained how weird it is that we were thinking about each other during roughly the same period.
It is weird, I guess we just have a "special" connection. That's a joke, I'm not trying to get weird. Anyway, your online journal is kinda neat. Weird, but neat. You're a good writer, funny. Um, I am good. Still with the guy, still working-same ol' same ol'. My life is pretty damn boring right now. Sounds like you are having a good time. This is off the subject, but did you ever get your wisdom teeth out? I really don't know what else to write, so instead of making you read words that don't matter...

Keep in touch
- Meg

Stay tuned for Part Three.

Big Noisy Caterpillar

Things that are on the tube:
  • Absolutely no garbage cans
  • Loud Americans
  • Locals giving dirty looks to loud Americans
  • A very particular smell of combined B.O. I have dubbed "the Euro cologne"
  • A random shoe
  • A boyfriend and girlfriend making out even though they totally look like brother and sister from the same freaky albino family
  • A man who looked like BOB
  • Hairy moles (not the burrowing kind)
  • Hispanic people with British accents (weird!)
  • Germs, I’d imagine
  • Abundant bad haircuts
  • Posters advertising the seventh season of “Buffy” on DVD
  • A single exposed breast
  • Somebody with an accordion
  • The aforementioned man who looked like a male Mimi Bobek
  • Thankfully, no ghosts
Odd how some of my clearest London memories are set in the tube.

A Thought on the Sidewalk

Best name for a Sudanese restaurant: Suddenly Sudan

Camden

Camden rocked thirty years ago, when it was the center of the astral plane of cool, and it rocks today, mostly, if not with a lot more people trying to steal my valuable money through trinkets and t-shirts. I bought the t-shirts anyway. Now I can proudly wear the White Stripes, Joy Division, or the frontmost alien from Space Invaders proudly. I can't express how glad I am for passing up the Stonehenge/Bath/Oxford all-day, wake up-at-five-in-the-morning supertour. Camden made me just as happy, only without buses. The trek beyond the comfy confines of Zone One was well worth it and replete with pink and blue mohawked heads. Enough of this faux-hawk shit.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Neon Yellow Journalism

Reminding me of the world of difference between British, one-step-above-Weekly World News tabloid journalism and its American counterpart, the headline for the story containing the photos of the assuredly dead Uday and Qudsay Hussein: "REST IN PIECES"

Sometimes You Get What You Need

So freaking weird. Not a day after I post that entry in which I talked about missing Meg, she emailed me.
I don't know if you even check this mail, but...I just wanted to send you a belated birthday wish. I hope you had a good one and I hope you are having fun abroad. London, right? Anyway -- just wanted to say happy birthday, ol' pal.

- Meg
Nice, but so freaking weird.
[ link: the foreshadowing ]

Sweet Home Stratford-Upon-Avon

While reading the plaque next to a particularly ugly Roy Lichtenstein sculpture during my six hour stay at the modern art holy of holies, the Tate Modern, I finally learned the difference between Benday dots and bindi dots. Benday dots are the little dots of color used in print, like in the newspaper or comic books. I kind of don’t think they use them anymore, but they’re the little specks of red and yellow that they’d use to make really garish oranges. Bindi dots, however, are the third eye symbols that Hindu women wear on their foreheads.

And that’s not the only gift the Tate Modern bestowed upon me. I picked up a pocket-sized book detailing the career of David Lynch. Aside from joyously drawing long forgotten friends like Maddy Ferguson, the Lady in the Radiator, and mean Mr. Eddie to the forefront of my mind. I learned that Lynch himself didn’t start into art until his twenties. He did painting, then some moving mechanical sculpture, and then got into animation and film from there. This means that with hard work, dedication, and development of what raw skill I think I might have, I could actually have a chance at this shit. If Jessica can hold Conan O’Brien up as her career template and Debbie Salt can hold up Gale Weathers, then I could use David Lynch for mine. Maybe. Or him and Conan.

It turns out that I probably don’t have jaundice.

Breaking all rules of the strict code of conduct to which I hold myself, I went out last night to a club. I hate clubs. I hate dancing. And I genuinely loathe dancing to shitty club music. Nonetheless, I had a good time without getting all that wasted. Granted, I ingested two substances that the United States government would have forbidden — (one) guarana, which wired me like a Double Shot Extra Tall Super Espresso Hyperspasm, and (two) absinthe, which didn’t make me see green fairies but did make the night a good one. But I actually enjoyed the clubbing experience. I think the company was good. Shannon and Tracy are good dancers, or at least Ben says they are. Personally, I can’t tell. It looks like everybody’s making it up to me. But when we weren’t protecting the girls from the pouncing cocks of sweaty Anglotrash, we had fun. They played “Sweet Home Alabama.” Do the Britons even know what Alabama is?

I’ve got to say goodbye to all these people in one week. I’ll be leaving them for touring the continent with Kristen and company — including Spain, where the BBC says they’ve been having terrorist bombings in touristy areas. But it will be a sad end to my little "Real World"-esque vacation. Of course, that’s not to say that college life up until this point has ever lacked the qualities of the "Real World." Or even the real world, for that matter.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

But Not Schwinn

While I was walking to class this morning, my mind spinning with Meg and Tom Stoppard, I realized a lot of words for bad things begin with the letters s-c-h: schmuck, schpilkis, schlong… Kristi said there’s this German word schatz that means “dear,” so maybe this is just me.

The keyboards here blow. Where the @ should be, there’s a £ and the $ is moved one over and where the “ is there’s the @. There now, that seems suitably British.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

To the Honorable Mr. Tate

Graham Sutherland's art inspires me; Francis Bacon's drives me to seek counseling.

Elbow Celebration

Insults I have endured thus far:
  • “Eat cunt!” (yelled at me by a young British lad from the window of a white limousine near Picadilly Circus)
  • “Wait in line like the rest of us, you tossers!” (or something thereabouts, yelled at me and Ben by some British douche bag who thought Ben and I were cutting in line when we weren’t, the douche bag)
  • “Boisterous, loud Americans” (a label we unjustly earned on the tube from some German-speaking douche bags who didn’t realize our program’s mole, the German-born Antonia/Tracy could understand everything they said)
“Oh, we’re from California.” — a rejection to the guy at the info desk of the museum of natural history in response to his offer of an earthquake simulator. He understood.

“Elbows are so bomb!” — something somebody actually said.

“Regina,” the Latin for queen, pronounced by our British tour guide to rhyme with “vagina.” I noticed. I laughed. No one else did.

Friday, July 18, 2003

London Calling

I just realized the Clash t-shirt Jill and Monique got me when they were in London has made a return trip to its motherland.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Breath of the Marbol

I know it’s high culture and historically significant and all that, but walking through gallery after gallery of nobility portraits is like flipping through some yearbook from London Aristocrat High, circa the sixteenth century. How can I expected to feign interest when even the portraits look bored? Then again, any museum that houses the likenesses of Samuel Pepys and David Bowie or Queen Elizabeth and Twiggy can’t be all that bad.

Everything in England smells like grandpa breath.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Gloucester Station

We stand without speaking, just like the locals, just like good Americans. Clacking and roaring like a roller coaster.

Bump. Sway. Fluorescent flickering.

The whizzing black interrupted by the occasional beer-yellow safety light slows to a halt, and the scenery changes to the station: more fluorescent lights, flooding the sterile tile platform like the set of some urban movie.

Stand up. Sit down. Shuffle around.

Now we’ve got a new group of friends on the journey home, but God forbid we try to talk to them. A youngish mother has youngish daughters — not twins, but dressed identically like she wishes they were. An old man stares at those girls and I don’t like the way he’s looking at him. In the car behind us, a man who looks like Mimi Bobeck reads the newest Harry Potter and occupies his seat like an overripe pear squished into a shotglass. The station starts inching away again, then runs, then blurs into that blackness that I don’t like.

No one’s sitting directly across from me, and I can see my reflection in the window, shadowed by the whole lot of nothing behind it. I would have never imagined Gloucester Station — one of those overlit tile platforms without garbage bins that I only began frequenting a week ago — would make feel like I was home, but it does. My feet hurt and I wish I was there now.

Friday, July 11, 2003

That Don't Impress Me Much, Either

Good God. This is the longest I've gone without seeing "The Simpsons" in my life. Shania Twain has a concert in Hyde Park tomorrow. Somehow, that doesn't impress me much as the Cindy Sherman exhibit at the adjacent Serpentine Galley.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Armitage Shanks

Just when I think it’s sunk in, I realize it hasn’t and I’m a stranger again.

The novelty of living in this old city never struck my mind more sensationally than when the spit flew from the mouth of an Shakespearean actress on landed on my forehead. The construction of the Globe affords me the privilege of groundlinghood — I’m standing with my stomach pressed against the stage, the cast of an all-female production of Richard III screaming, crying, and dueling no more than six inched from my awe-stricken face. The actress playing Richard defies the confines of gender with a malicious grin; the actress playing Anne, who would be pretty if she didn’t have the nose of the pigfaces from that “Eye of the Beholder” episode of the Twilight Zone, is the one whose saliva has splashed on my head. Her Anne is both dignified and pathetic. It was the second performance of a Shakespeare play at the reconstructed Globe within twenty-four hours, the previous being an all-male Richard II. I never thought I could like the history plays like this.

I live among the unnervingly wealthy here. The bitchy, British judge from American Idol shops at the grocery store we went to the first day. We saw him. The Dutch embassy is our next door neighbors. They’re nice people, I’m sure. Our front window looks out onto Hyde Park, a sprawling green better than any strip of brush we call a park in the States. Aside from the palace within the park, there’s a golden statue of Prince Albert — ahem — and the Serpentine Galley, which is presently featuring a show by Cindy Sherman.

The flatmates are good, certainly better than I expected from a school that admits cows into its undergraduate program. Some of them suck beyond the telling of it, but mostly I’m happy.

In the interest of conserving the flat’s most prized resource — toilet paper — I braved the bidet today. Webster defines “bidet” in a way that makes me smile: “a bathroom fixture used especially for bathing the external genitals and the posterior parts of the body.” Truthfully, I think the toilet’s little sister is a fixture made only for women. The male genitals hang in such a way as to be teased annoying by the bidet’s stream of water. While the stream does clean the desired parts, it strikes the seldom-stuck region to the rear of the nut sack in the process, causing an unpleasant slap-slap-slap that does not make me smile. I think Bidet Town is an area of the European lifestyle I will leave uncharted after all.

And most impressive above all these things: I learned how to use the tube without getting lost.

Where do I go from here?

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Somewhere Over Moose Jaw

Holy shit. “My plane just landed in LONDON.” “I’m going through customs in LONDON.” “Uncle Andy’s picking me up in from Heathrow Airport in LONDON.” “I’m taking a bath in LONDON.” “I’m getting drunk with Kiwis at the decidedly American-Ozzie Outback Steakhouse… in LONDON!” I’m fucking here. On a new continent, on a new country, in a new city, on my uncle’s laptop while he and his Polish girlfriend share his bedroom. Holy shit. I have to repeat it. I made it here on my own. I didn’t accidentally board a flight to Libya. I wasn’t deterred by being situated between a monolingual German frau and a narcoleptic British dowager on the flight. And I didn’t get spurned by the hateful customs agent at the airport. Somewhere over Moose Jaw, it hit me: I am making the biggest step forward of my life. A lingering question: why did Uncle Andy’s flatmate Barry ask me what the age of consent for homosexual sex was in the United States?