Saturday, November 26, 2005


All's I can say is how 'bout dem Hawks?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Dreamed a Dream by the Old Canal

Que pasa amigos!

Came home this evening from the gym and found myself walking into a bitter wind--almost a Kansas wind. Brrr! Winter has finally arrived, prompting me to write about perhaps the funniest thing I've seen in London to date. London has a pretty big tourist industry centered on city tours--especially by old-timey looking double decker buses. The tourist rigs, for ease of sight-seeing, however, have the tops cut off. We all know where this is going now. I saw a bus load of gawking gapers driving around all of the famous sites perched on top of one of these things, huddled on top of each other for warmth. Keep in mind, that today's wind chill was well below 0. I was freezing my tads off running from cafe to cafe and can only imagine how cold it must have been on top of that bus. I was tempted to flag them down and offer to show 'em a 'real' london spot--like the bar where Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell in the face for calling him a "fat poof." An over-reaction really given that Ronnie was pretty large (glandular disorder complicated by mental illnes-perhaps explaining the tantrum) and quite homosexual. But I digress. Instead of offering my insight into London for the frozen hapless souls, I ran for the nearest chestnut roaster to huddle by the fire before stepping to the pub for a quick pint of bitter before going home.

I had a completely new experience today and did something I never thought I would, but not that I have, I will again. I bought coffee from a machine. Earlier in the year, I was initially tempted by the prospect of a coffee for a quid but was frightened away by the mechanized way it was to be dispensed, so I ran. Today, however, I only had a quid and was faced with either machine coffee or no coffee. We all know what happens when i had no coffee (and I had to negotiate with a bank manager later), so I grabed my rocks and ponied up to this strange and wonderous device.

It looked a lot like one of those chic new Automatic Saecco espresso makers, and on closer inspection, it was pretty much the same thing. The digital menu offered black coffee-same thing as an Americano in the states, espresso, lattes and cappuccinnos. Skeptical of automated espresso, and seriously craving 20 ounces of hot liquid, I placed my cup under the spout and I pushed the 'coffee' button; sweet jesus what happened next was amazing! Out came espresso to a perfect crema and then hot water, and it was good. It was the best cup of coffee I've had in England barring the Starbucks I had to patronize because I was seriously jonesing. So yes friends, I can now get coffee in the am without having to growl my order to a pimply teen who will mess it up anyway or question why I want a 'six shot' with no sugar, creme or milk (too many calories for that stuff).

This experience, however, has inevitably set me up for doom because now, I want one. Some of you may remember the time I was bidding on that four head commercial model for my one room flat above the gallery in Lawrence only to be beaten at the last minute by only like 20 dollars and how thankful, in hindsight, I was that I was not the proud new owner of an industrial espresso machine. Well fuck. I'm getting one for my new house when I can scrounge together the requisite 2000 unecessary pounds it will cost me. Doing the benifit cost analysis on that, though, means that it would pay for itself in a little less than three years (2 double espressos a day for 3 years at 1 pound apiece); I'd be stupid not to get one. Anyone looking for a Christmas gift ideas for their junky friend in London...

Lamentably, I will probably have to wait until I get a straight job. Speaking of straight jobs and coffee, my friend Jed-featured as "Ghetto Bike Racing at its Finest" just to the right reports that he was on the internet, apparently googling himself (this relates to straight jobs and coffee because Jed is coffee extrordinaire with Jittery Joes in Geogrgia, so the segue works). He found some funny geographic connections to his name which got him excited--as the internet does for a lot of us, and he continued with his wife's name.

The reason I bring this up is one time he sent me some "Dopers Suck" blend of coffee, COD, but we won't get into that--yes, I have enemies in the coffee world from my thesis who still give me free coffee. And indeed, dopers do suck. It's confirmed Heras cheated, netting me 50 quid, but I'm not happy about it and will probably give it to a drug treatment charity, maybe in his name. fucker. I know what you're thinking, maybe both tests are flawed or that someone switched the samples or when fetal, he assymilated an unrealised twin and that's why there's extra cancer drug EPO in his blood, but I for one am not going to be optomistic. He cheated; he got caught; he sucks. Next!.

Tommorow I get the keys to the new flat. I'm sharing it with some young professionals; a cool seeming banking software guy (always good to know a computer person), a social worker (bet some uplifting dinner conversations will come out of that) and another to be named later. I'm hopping for a right wing, fascist, football thug or a fashion model. Good times will ensue I'm sure.

I've caught a sniffle, so I'm going to have a tea, check ebay for coffee makers and go bed.

until later,

thanks for reading

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Triumph of Banality

Greetings again from the land of fog and wind and two layered buses, where the air is sweet with roasting chestnuts and the streets are packed with revelers. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tommorrow is a day of thanksgiving of sorts as well, and it has nothing to do with the religious economy of the 1600's, on the surface. Thursday 24 November, 2005 is the day that Parilament, in an attempt to curb the alcohol problem of Britain have made it possible for a pub, club, bar, off liscence liqour shop and supermarkets to retail alcohol 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Proponents argue this will cut down on last minute binge drinking; opponents of course say "but now alcohol is available anytime." Beverage companies say "Ka Ching!" The arguments are all good.

To understand the root of this issue requires an in depth understanding of British drink culture, something about which I've made my own deep, ethnographic survey. Brits booze like no other. Not even the Irish can say they drink harder than the 'ol boys on the End.' But drink is common, and perceptions of it are quite a bit different than the Puritanical views of the US. Using Guardian stats, taken from Monday's paper and based on the National Health Service, I am a low to moderate drinker. Keep in mind, I am now drinking more than I ever have except maybe with the exception of my time in Breckenridge or my first year in college. What does light to moderate mean? Well, this is from 0 - 21 units of booze per week. 21 units is equal to 12 pints of beer. Roughly 2 pints a day barring the Sabbath. Now, if I drink 2 pints a day for 6 days, I will have a holy day on the 7th and be completely "assholed" in bed because of it. But, of course my 150 pound 5% body fat self is not the ordinary Brit. On average, Brits themsleves consume 10 liters of alcohol a year (200 proof) per person.

So when asked if the English have a drink problem? No, it's plentiful, cheap and now available 24 hours a day. On the bright side of the violence and abuse that will come when certain stereotypes drink a slab of stella while watching their team loose and being able to go get out and get some tasty white cider to finish off the spouse, is that Great Britain has 1 traffic death because of alcohol for every 100 million miles. See, the shoppes and pubs are prevelent to be near houses. Drinking blind is alright, but driving is completely out of the public consciousness.

This whole discussion started because MPs were afraid that pub goers were drinking too much in the last 15 minutes of a bar being open (most close at 11 or 12), resulting in drunks spilling on the streets and causing mayham. The obvious solution is to not close the pubs. No closing means no drunks on the street?...

Speaking of violence and drink, Frodo is in movie about the fans of my football club West Ham United (Claret and Blue). While in practice it's complete crap, there are some elements to truth about it. I'll go watch it because it's about my neighborhood here on the End; check it out, you can see some of East London. I've had beers in a few of those pubs on game day (aparantly). Though if you want real insight into Hooliganery, check out The Firm directed by Allan Clarke for the BBC (Gary Oldman has the lead too).

Not much is new really. I'm moving Saturday into a new place in the Docklands (over looking the Thames...). I'll still be an "Ender" technally (as much as I ever was), but I'll also be living in a nicer place with better transport links and a huge tv with all of the Simpson's channels (and more room for vistors). Docklands are a cool area rebuilt after being leveled in WWII. It's also pretty historic to London, and most of you know I really love water and sea, so the prospect of living close to it is always appealing. Besides, this now means KFC and TGI Mac Scratchies is 10 minutes away; I wonder if I can get one of those deep fried sandwhiches there...mmmm lipids

And on this note, I'm going to stop. The boring details of my recent life are not remarkable, though I did have my first proper curry Monday. I work, sleep, fulfill my quota of alcohol; such is Britain.

thanks for reading

Thursday, November 10, 2005

and then there was depression

Greetings sports fans; I hope you're not all keeping score because it's not looking good. In my daily perusal of the newspapers, web news, phone down loadable news and everything else, I could not find one piece of pleasant up-lifting reporting. So please, please, if anyone has anything that is genuinely decent. Send it on. In fact, I am now holding a contest; the best piece of news that gets sent to me wins something. I don't know what it is yet, but it will be cool. On top of this, or rather because of this, I have decided to make my own news. More on that later.

I'm not one prone to discussing sports unless I have a vested interest in the outcome; which given my enjoyment of sports gambling, is actually more often than you think. But goddamn! Now Roberto Heras is a doper too. Common, he was so cool, always the faithful soldier to Armstrong's despotism, the leutenant who kept the front under control before The Man put the stomp down, and always with a smile; he never complained that Armstrong not once pushed a pedal in anger for him. Instead, Roberto rode faithfully beside to give Lance the opportunities to win, settling for the sloppy seconds of a not so important race.

Heras was just too cool. Always quiet, always making his mark on HIS race. Who can forget British pop-star drug fiend Davie Millar when he quit and cried in Spain because "it was just too hard..." Fairy!! Heras beat him by like 6 minutes on the day. Milar time this (this would be where I make an inapropriate jesture, you should all do the same).

This is why it breaks my heart to hear that he is accused of taking EPO on his quest to win that not so important race in Spain. I know what you're all thinking. "But Ben, all of your other cycling heros were, are or are accused of doping"

True, once again my imagniary dialog friend, but Johan or Ludo, they were hardmen, racing in hard times, in hard races. What's a little pot belge between friends when you're battling it out on cart paths in the north country in spring when the winds have made the echelons hellish and field's strung out in the gutter doing 35 in the mud. You ride aluminium, I take drugs, I see no difference.

But Heras, he was different; he was nice. Which brings me to my next question. Manolo Saiz bought his Vuelta bike for 26000 euros as a charity event. Does this means it devalues?

Back to my original postulate. I don't care unless I have a vested interest; well, sadly I do. I bet 50 quid before all this started that Heras was on drugs during the Tour of Spain. What's this world comming to. I'm not betting on the outcome of events anymore. I'm betting on whether someone will be caught cheating in them. I might as well gamble on baseball or NFL, but that really isn't gambling; I know those guys are doping, fucking Congress knows they're doping, and if the US Congress knows something, besides that being remarkable, then, eh nevermind.

A collegue of mine asked "what about hockey?" Who cares really. You don't bet on the outcome of that game either, just whether or not someone will be taken out on assult with intent charges. Besides, the only worth while bet there is mullet ratio: 80/20, 60/40 or the coveted 90/10 (this is where we all think of our own funny names for mullets...mine is "canadian passport.")

Well, that tirade's over. I feel strangly numb. Anyway, what am I doing to change all of this? I'm going to make some good news. As of last monday, I began training for a marathon (running not drinking), and have decided to make it a charity event. Don't know the details yet. The cause? Probably something to do with inner-city hunger in Tower Hamlets (the borough in which I live--hunger is a problem, a serious problem here). My method, well I'll do it without drugs except caffeine, because we all know what happens when I don't get caffeine. Oh, I also havent' decided which race; it won't be the London Marathon or anything; it may not even be a sanctioned event, I might circumvent the Man, and just run, a la Tom Hanks when he played that guy. So, if anyone has any ideas about how to make it a charity event, also let me know.

That's about it for now. Things are going well here in the big city. I saw a cute dog on the subway today; It managed to wipe the sneers off many a hard boiled commuter; I even saw one bloke smile, and it wasn't even sunny. Yikes, maybe it's not the "end of days".

gotta go, thanks for reading,


Friday, November 04, 2005

Halloween Night

Oh I forgot to mention Halloween: three words: Fear and Loathing.

This is what Raol Duke and Dr Gonzon took to Las Vegas
We had two bags of grass, seventy-
five pellets of mescaline, five
sheets of high powered blotter
acid, a salt shaker half full of
cocaine, a whole galaxy of multi-
colored uppers, downers, screamers,
laughers... Also a quart of tequila,
a quart of rum, a case of beer, a
pint of raw ether and two dozen

This was Duke's Comment

not that we needed all of that, but once you get locked into a really serious drug collection, the tendancy is to push it as far as you can...

Well for Halloween... mine was worse.

I showed up for a conference the next day in the same suite I had on the night before. "Holy Jesus" my boss exclaimed "Did you sleep in your clothes?"

yeah you wish, there's no sleeping anymore. I just rode the night buses until it turned to the day bus, and I could take the train. You don't want to meet the night bus people. Scary people, mummies, ghouls, junior attornies. Coupled with the sheet of acid I ate and the 5 dozen red bulls. lights out (really on, too on, many blinking lights moving really fast).

Actually, Halloween was quite nice. Went out to the gentleman's club and discussed Bauldelere over some cocktails, you know,, usual classy London intellectual stuff...

anyway, there's some bats in my room I need to handle; let you know how that goes,

thanks for reading,

Murder Ball

Some of you, after reading the jibberish that I spew on line, have asked me privately if I'm all right; the answer: of course I am.

Anyone who has known me for more than 48 hours knows perfectly well that I am the sanest person on the planet; it's just that everyone else Not angry mad; rather, the sort of maddness reserved for milliners. Also, as of last post, I just found out that you all can write your own comments, so now I've been entertaining myself trying to figure out whose who; the moral of the story, include a name; that way, I know.

Finally, most of you who also send private emails comment about "infamous commute." 'What's it really like?' 'It can't be that hectic.' etc. So today's version of London Living is dedicated to the train warriors of London.

Let's start with the first question, 'what's it really like,' so that we don't really have to answer the second. MMM let's would I describe the daily battle to get into and out of the city??? Well, picture a category 5 field sprint, in a 15 corner criterium with several thousand dollars at stake (hell a pro-crit with that kinda money) and combine that with some Romance-style gladiator competition; the result is something that resembles my commute. Really. The key to surviving each day is to look about six people in front of you and anticipate the motions of the crowd, and always be moving forward through it. Many days I purely rely on my bike racing instinct; it is almost remarkable to consider how many times I 'take the inside,' 'chop corners' or 'stack people into the wall.' Frankly my day is not complete unless I find my head burried in the rib cage of my competitor pushing him (or her) into the guard rail. I throw elbows, bump shoulders and do my best to stay up right. It's awesome.

Couple all of the bike racing analogies with my 20 kilos worth of back pack, and now enter the realm of blood sport. There are a sub-breed mutant London office-commando who seem to think that they own the rights to walk and that the rest of us peons should bow out. Usually these are Lloyds type investor bankers who fancy themselves as the 'Big Swinging Dicks' (BSDs) of the financial world; unfortunately, in the public sphere, they're just another obstacle between me and my train, like a spilled coffee or chewing gum. Needless to say, collisions are ugly, and given that my 70 kilos (90 with luggage) is mainly muscle and bone (and books) while their's tends to by sqishy and British...well, you get the idea. Some days it pays to be an American (ironically enough, this reminds me of a House of Pain-ironic since they claimed 'Irish roots'-lyric about putting on some cowboy boots--( )

Once you get beyond the violence, embrace the humor. Many of the tube stations have musicians trying to make it big...and move above ground. This in itself doesn't bother me. It's great to perform; practice makes perfect, and frankly, there are some talented folks down there--I heard a violinist perform the ciaccona from Bach's violin partita no 2 (a piece he dedicated to his late wife) almost to perfection until her fingers were cut to ribbons by those 128th notes.. Today, however, I was greeted with the sounds of some experimental vocale arrangements by woman whose voice was a melodic mix of Ani DeFranco, Alanis Morrisette and Tori Amos, combined with a high pitched warble and a synthesizer. Grand Opera it was not. In fact, it brought tears to my eyes and CSF out my ears. I was lucky though, some poor rube out-of-towner found himself in the wrong part of the echoing tunnel where the sound waves magnified against the tile. Last I heard Transport Police were scraping bits of scalp off the 1123 to West in a big city I guess; lead, follow or get out of the way.

So there you have it. Commuting, the daily struggle. At least I don't have to take a car. One of my collegues who lives about 15 miles from Egham was stuck in traffic for almost three hours on his way into the office. All I had to do was push two people down the stairs, stomp an old lady and go 15 rounds wielding a trident i against a stock broker in the Pit-of-Death, and I had time for a latte.

well, it's Friday night. Decided not to go out and instead save up for Guy Fawkes Day tomorrow. Given this town's love for burning effigies and the memories of 7/7 fresh on everyone's mind, I wonder who's going up at Trafalger...should be a riot, and I want a front row seat.

take it easy and thanks for reading,

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Highball on the Edge of the Wasteland

My chair is poised on a balcony above the main floor of Waterloo station; I’m between trains, and on the brink of the afternoon 5years 11 months and exactly 12hrs into the third millennia, jacked into the network. Between juggling text messages on my mobile, emails on my computer and filtering the miscelaneous conductor messages of the loudspeaker, all while sipping a Texas sized espresso, I sit here watching the crowd surge and pulse from place to place, oblivious to the fact that they are no longer in charge of their own destiny, if indeed they ever were.

Modernity critics often liken the experience to a high speed train that will never slow down and only get faster or like Thompson who contends that it “not a train, but a plane, and in the past we all wondered who was flying it, but now we know, no one.” Little did that poor bastard who pushed the starter button and then mashed the throttle into floor realize or care that what he started will eventually spell our doom. You see sports fans, quantum physics demands that as a body increases in velocity towards the speed of light, its mass follows suite but at higher rate, so once velocity terminal, mass equals infinity; now picture what happens if that body suddenly slams to a stop. Einstein wrote this out as

E = mc2

And when Robert Oppenheimer tested this theory, he was reduced into reciting ancient Hindu poetry about becoming death, shatterer of worlds. And if I were to gamble (and I have 50 quid on the Mayans in 2012—any takers?), I’d call long odds of this ending in a mass of twisted burning steel writhing at the bottom of the abyss.

London is a culture of speed. I don’t mean in the metaphorical sense that we are always on our cellies and crackberries (we are) moving quickly through a highly urban, sophisticated environment; we’re on the chop that shit up on the dinner table and snort it through a slurpy straw kind…and this is okay for a culture unless you push it too hard for too long, until the neurons start popping like frogs on a hot plate. Then all that’s left is a meaningless wasteland of signs pointing to signs or in the Baudrillardian sense, simulacra of simulacra and jello for a brain and conscious. It’s already bad for us junkies who get our fix not by plugging, but free-jacking into a better faster day; adrenaline sluts whose heart palipitates each time jump the gate into the network. Slowing down is not an option, only faster, harder until the images fly by leaving sparks in their con-trails. But dear readers this anti-socialist escape is really the vanguard. Raise your hand if you used your i-pod today—

Some call this post-modern, others hyper-modern, me, pre-apocalypse, and if you want to know what its like to get off, pull the breaks in the middle of the morning rush try it. You get stomped, and I’ll be the first in line to step on your throat. And neither your neighbors nor modernity itself cares enough to not help. I was talking to a bloke in the bar yester morning while waiting for the trains and asked him how he coped: “Easy, take two aspirins with your coffee each morning” and handed me a vile of Bayer. He knew the score.

Last night was Halloween, making today the days of the dead, which is about right, but instead of celebrating our ancestors, lets mourn our-selves; culture wars are never good; the lower denominators won’t be that way for long, and they’re getting ready to swing an epic meat bat, and just like the bond traders of the 80’s the goal is to be the BSD. Gotta love the game of chic cultural cool.

The pace of the station is now a frenetic buzz, and I’ve switched from coffee to a can of Stella that handed to me by someone else who smuggled a case into the bar; I don’t think management is going to say a word though, I feared declining this beer from this townie, but am thankful, it’s helping me compensate for the motion below.

I fear I’ve gone off course here, so let me return to normalcy. My position in all of this is purely a subjective view of reality, for no other reason than its funny, and I will go to great lengths to ensure participating in something funny. We have no choice in matter anyway so we might as well ride this one to the bitter bloody end and then pull up chair and have a cocktail to watch them sort through the wreckage of the 21 century—any takers on this bet?

And as final note, if any of you can sort through this jibberish then I’ll give you 5 to 1—Mayans 2012—(though I’ll double down and bet spread with enough points) this ought to keep “Bored in Athens” busy for at least an hour

Thanks for reading