Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Adventures of the Mundane

This is the first true post about my life abroad. So please, give me comments about content you'd like to see; London Information, tour guide stuff, etc. I'm prone to ranting and trailing off, so tell me about that too. The aim of this whole thing is to share my insider tourist perspectives. You probably won't get a review of the The Queen's bed chamber, unless I completely violate the 10 year rule...yeah you can thank me later (, and I probably won't offer my opinion of Lord Neslson's statue in Trafalger (it's actually kinda cool or even Big Ben (he's doing fine). This will be about the gritty everyday booze inflected world in which I live and make my career. So, I'll probably talk about pissin in the Thames and buying groceries with an expired ID more than I will Tony Blaire and his botching of world affairs. So please, read on dear friends. (actually there are many great articles and books about Tony Blaire's government and the dissatisfaction and disintegration of the Labour Party. To read more...nevermind).

So, Its been a while since I've actually written about this place, and it's been a whirlwind of meetings, train rides, shoving and fighting to get a pint during the football match, etc.

What can say? I'm starting to catch the beat here, where the novelty is beginning to wear off into routine; up at six to catch the subway to the train station to Egam and back. Slogging through the inevitable quew while trying not to spill my espresso on my tie and wondering if I have time to grab a paper before the train carriage fills forcing me to stand the 35 minutes to the office. Then I remember fuck that; I'm not one of the inumerable shlubs on their way to Lloyds to carve out a bleak sub-middle management existance making money for a bunch of guys who don't even bother with work, so it's off to the park if its sunny (we do have those) or the library/pub/cafe (depending on the hour) where I can get few hours pursuing activities that I choose and enjoy while figuring out if I'm going north this weekend or checking the Tate (it's the modern art museum...) But I see these miserable bastards each day, lives dictated by lines painted on the floor in the tube station guiding people from route to route, just to do it all again in reverse 8hrs later. I wonder if the commuters I see actually live their lives in a two dimensional sort of underground way based entirely on the maps for the London Underground (title of a great new book by Douglas Rose, about all the things that happens under London). Oddly enough, it takes some serious mental gymnastics to figure out exactly where the hell you would be if you were walking, some sort of metaphysical uni-dimensional conflation of rhetorical space (I don't know either, don't ask). What allways boggles my mind that whole thing about birds, crazy. But enough ranting.

I joined the student gym today with mixed reviews. On the plus side, the treadmills are all in kilometers, so I'm running more than double what I was in the US. The down side is I can only bench 50kg, way less than the 110+lbs I usually do (hey, I have a weak shoulder). I have mixed opinions about all of this. I also went duvee cover shopping today in the bedding district. London has all sorts of retail districts, so to find a suite I go to the garmet district, shoes--the shoe district, leather jacket, well you get the idea. The funny bit of it all is that these districts all have kichy designer shops, with themes. So to buy a bed spread, I'm forced with the proposistion of establishing my room theme: retro, modern, retro modern, post modern, asian post-script-rustic, etc, and there are advisors to help with these descisions, and also to point out the matching curtains, coffee mugs and the way to the toilette--all for something that covers my bed with most of my interactions with it being in the dark. Just as I was weighing the options between chic Persian (or just throwing down a few sheepskins and gettin to bidness), I found my stones and bought a whitish one--to the chegrin of the bloke who was steering me towards an art-deco-Austin Powers theme.

I also met with one of the other new adventures of British Life: pocket change. GIve someone a 20 for a 5pound item, they're apt to give your money back in coinage. By the end of the day, one's out of bills and has like 50quid worth of 1 and 2 pound coins. Not a bad thing necessarily, but as someone who is prone to forget about pocket change or use it to buy a pint on the way home, this is a dangerous thing;.

The weekend was good. My flatmate and I went to a few University bars downtown for cheap beer (a world wide universal standard I might add is poximity to college = cheap beer) and drank our fill of Stella--the meister chow of Britain (aka "wifebeater" due to its high alcohol content and popularity amongst the chavs)--before stumbling to the west end to see what was going on there. This is the routine of london life. Fill up on cheap beer early, get a good buzz, and then go to the high clubs for red bull and vodka, and club dancing. Now, most of you know of my dancing prowess, but you should see it at 3am with a speedball in my veins. Then its on to the afterparties, and all of the sudden it's time to go to work on monday. C'est la vie I guess.

On the funnier, yet more tragic side of things. I awoke to the sounds of helicopters on Sunday, circling the East End and North London. I assumed it was another protest: we have a lot of those, but it was more of a riot, Sunday's the big premiership day, and my day to go to a few pubs, eat some pub food and watch football (so far fish and chips are overrated but steak and ale pie is awesome). Arsenal beat B'ham, while West Ham tied. Being sworn now to West Ham, because of my neighborhood, I have mixed feelings about all of this. I found myself drinking in an Arsenal bar, and normally, I'd say North Londoners are a bit soft (Arsenal 'fairies' and all), but I do only weigh about 150 pounds (don't know what that is in kilos, but not a lot), so I didn't like my chances. Rather, I kept quiet and sulked on my way home. There is a great pub culture here, though. It's perfectly acceptable to have a pint at 11am and drink all day, but then again, its social, and a great way to learn cockney, have some fun and be the less posh side of British. A culture, regardless of what anyone says, that is still horribly tied to its class based discrimination (not like the good ole' Merika where its race and gender). I poke fun at this at times (chavs are funny), but these issues speak to a rather dismal undercurrent facing UK society. whoa, must of had a bad commute, I feel sort of preachy.

This weekend's set to be huge. I'm doing the full on super-tourist thing on Saturday: The Tower, The Palace, The Eye, The Tate, Hunter Thompson style, call it research.
A funny story about the sameness between cultures. I found myself peeing in an alley Saturday Night with about 50 of my closest bar mates (pay toilets are like 50p), and I couldn't help but laugh and be reminded of all of the places on Mass Street where I've peed: the alleys, through the doors of most of the trendy clothes stores, Bill's garage door etc. The only real difference I guess is here I was outside on of the oldest pubs in London (est 1695), so they've been peeing in this alley for at least 3 centuries where as Lawrence only 1. Sort of makes you think twice about that funny smell next to St Bartolphs; that is probably 7 hundred years accumulated, filtered

thanks for reading.


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