- E.M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread
Did I mention my resolution to read only English novelists while I'm here? Luckily, England's produced one or two decent ones. ;^) I actually broke down once, which event I memorialized in this poem:
Memorium For My Only English Authors ResolutionVery Ogden Nash, don't you think? As it happened, I was well paid for my irresolution: the book, Less Than Zero, turned out to be entirely aptly titled. (I was surprised, as I'd like McInerny; and they're all of a piece, right?) I put it down after 50 pages (and I don't put down much). I got rapidly and repentently right back on track, with Ian McEwan and E.M. Forster and Ian Fleming and Quentin Crisp and the Amises pere (Kingsley) and fils (Martin). I even gave full-length Zadie Smith a try (but just to provide myself with the platform from which to hurl scorn upon her). I'm even giving Jane Austen another chance.
But Bret Easton Ellis
Who could resist?
First totally low-key weekend (out of 10 or 11 so far), this. All shopping, and laundry, and dry cleaning, and long leisurely workouts, and hair cut, and basically fighting entropy. But, of course, with the obligatory trip to the Tate Britain, to meet my One-Museum-Per-Weekend Quota. Made some major lifestyle strides: found a shampoo, and more notably, a dental floss I like (both from Tesco; turns out the grocery store beats the pharmacy (Boots) for toiletries). Figured out how to recycle; that feels good. Made some progress toward catching up with mail. Updated the mf.org consulting projects page (I've worked on as many in two months here as I did in the prior two years).
Oh and found FUJI APPLES for the first time! Major coup. Once you've gone Fuji, it's hard to go back. These are not the equal of the Fujis I had in the States; but they're country miles ahead of the Galas I'd been settling for and never mind the bloody indigenous British apples. Oh, man, this place does apples poorly. First I took a flier on these pumpkin-sized, bumpy, green "English Brambley" apples. Brambles is what they tasted like. I got through two of the four on principle. Also, I figured they had to be the lowest-sugar apples I'd ever had, so maybe they were good for me. Then, busting the scale in the other direction, I had these tiny, red "English dessert" apples. Dessert gone bad, I'd say. Bleah. Stupidly, I'd bought a whole bag (they were on sale), and divested myself of a bag minus one.
But, that (the apple horror) is so far the worst I can say about England. So far, the weather's even been quite good (though I'm told this won't last). It rains fairly often, but never a lot. And light mist out of a glowing grey/yellow sky really strikes me as quite nice (at least, after the unrelenting and unvarying perfection of south Bay weather). Lately it's almost sort of properly come down a couple of times; and you know in advance to take your umbrella out, if you see others with theirs out Londoners don't bother unless the normal light misting/sprinkling is being exceeded.
Had a pint on Friday night down the local with Mr. Ian Fisher, the most colourful character in the Boka Hotel. He's writing a semi-autobiographical novel about his experience meeting up in South American with a bunch of students from the Eastern bloc, plotting to kidnap the President of Romania (and ultimately inadvertantly causing his assassination, if the tale is to believed), and getting caught running drugs through Germany to finance the operation. (The case was dropped when it became clear how much of the evidence had disappeared in the hands of the German police.) I'm helping him with his synopsis.
Mr. Fisher has been in prison more than once (at one time earning a computer science degree while in lockdown), and is fairly down on his luck. He's also a musician; last year he was invited to Nashville to discuss recording deals but was turned back at the airport by U.S. authorities, due to his prison record, as an undesirable. He actually owns a flat in north London, but can't afford to live in it (he lives, just barely, off the income from renting it out). He's been in the Boka for seven months.
I didn't say nearly enough I realised, going back and actually looking at my notes about the 2003 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit. Here are those notes, scarcely edited:
- The intro wall text: winners represent the best of over 20,500 entries, including a mix of amateurs and pros: "Achieving the perfect picture is down to a mixture of vision, luck and knowledge of nature, which doesn't necessarily require an armoury of equipment and global travel."
- Steppe eagle fighting a maribou stork! Holy cow!
- Freaking unbelievable makes me so excited about photography a creative art form.
- White Barn owl, triggering an auto-camera, live mouse in mouth, wings and legs fully extended amazing!
- 5 or 6 from Namibia - 3 from Etosha, 1 from Namib desert. I've been going to the right places to shoot!
- Best photographer name: Alwin A K van der Heiden Roosen.
- There's an 11-14 y/o category! And a 10-and-under category!!
- Shot of lions surround by tourist tyre tracks in Serengeti, where trucks have hemmed them in and done circles to get pictures (from "World in Our Hands section", demonstrating how we're screwing up nature). Sadly, I realise those tyre tracks are me.
- Red colobus monkey, Jozani Forest, Zanzibar. Seen that as well!
- Most brazen wall text claim: "I positioned the Landrover between the lions and myself so that I wouldn't distrub their siesta."
Me: "Takes real cajones to try to pass that one off."
Josh: "Yeah the lions would be disturbed if they had to come over and eat me."
- Not one of the shots was taken digitally. For some reason, this really freaks me out like I've been fooling myself thinking that digital has completely arrived, and everyone should get on the train.
Day 0 - I'm Doing Something Here 17 Sept, 2003 12:36pm (according to J/L watch) I'M DOING SOMETHING This is it. I'm at the Dunwoody MARTA Station with, literally, all my possessions on my back. I'll be living out of this bag (well, three, technically, but two attach and the third is quite small) indefinitely . . . in a foreign country and culture . . . in a city of 7.5 million people . . . and going back to work full-time (touch wood) for the first time in two years. After making arrangements all year (notably the visa business), and dithering for weeks, there's nothing for it now but to get on the plane. Farewell America, "sweet land of liberty." Never goodbye, of course, but only farewell. America is an idea(l); I take it with me wherever I go. DAY 1 - English School Girls Flying trauma ward *Quarter to 6am* beginning of brand new day (while watching sun rise over London out window) Made it Baggage REclaim once again. "Warning. Smuggling is an offence." They just wanted to let you know how they felt about it. Stopped to get Appeltizer before bus. Oh my God: they're playing Englishman in NY. "Whoah oh, I'm an alien. I'm a legal alien . . ." Stepped above ground for first time, and weather was just misty and cold, with a sky like gym clothes. Lovely! CGEY, Woking, schoolgirls [Things I've learned about trains on my first day in London] * Talking * Knew return = rountdritp. Didn't know single=one way (not one person). Asking for "single return" draws strange looks. * Lots of English schoolgirls on train around 3pm. * Having one be late and casue one to miss one's connection is a very uncontroversial excuse for being late to an interview * The tabloid The Sun, which people leave on them, has topless women every day on page 3. * Many of the doors on older ones have handles only on the outside, reached through the window; not knowing this is a world-beating way to miss your stop Fifers returns, train->"Oh shit! Talking!" Day 2 - There Are Beautiful Women Swarming Everywhere Brunel: shithole, crappy-ass tech questions tube, tube, tube - *first central London* St. Pauls, call recruiter from red phone box Hey! Millennium Bridge open! Gotta cross Laughed out loud (again) first just to be stepping over the Thames then again a minute later to realize: "I can go to the Tate Modern ANY TIME I WANT Annoyed w/tourists; take picture for some N. Americans Mizuho interview Sat at a sidewalk table watching Friday rush hour in City go by [good thing Ken congestion charge!], eating an aple & banana & drinking something called Innocent Juicy Water (mango, p-fruit, spring water, beet sugar). Wow D3 20 Sept - Back to Self: "Bugger Off": Slept 11 hours, snuck out tube -> Clapham (don't like) main drag, always High St. (user-friendly convention) PHONE!; wiFi no power! Siesta, munching fruit (vendors), SMSing (texting) back and forth. When I came back in and the guy at the desk asked how I was doing, I said, "Making progress." "With what?" ". . . Becoming British." Packed, up stuff on back, headed for lab. Busted out laptop. Local streaming radio love music! Fucking w/phone suddenly almost understand why everyone's fucking with their phone constantly. they're not geeks or anti-social they're just constantly texting with their mates. South -> Egham, Fife/drinks/Putney "Sexy Korean girl" "5 hours SMS spammed!" I'm pretty sure, suddenly, that city life makes you thin. I've probably lost 2% body fat in 3 days just from running around constantly, and never having time to sit around and eat. Also, people here are quite thin. That is to say, people on average are thin; strikingly thin people are quite common; and significantly unthin people are fairly rare. Disaster in Egham! Day 4 - "Move on the LEFT, Move on the LEFT" Back, different room, pique, payment. Out: black shirt, glorious, light, etc. Mobile: 1 day, and I'm full-on texting geek Caffe Nero in Putney. Couch, table, AC, fruit juice. Nailed change. Carrot/apple/lemon. Finally find power. gaydarradio.com! Yeah! (Madonna's Hollywood, site says so) "It's London; you've got to watch your stuff" lesson the easy way Back, shopping, proper grocery store, credit dinner, study, stretch/leg day, plot tomorrow, sleep Day 5 Up at 7, tea, shower onto tube to continue my tour of London's Caffe Neros (and neighborhoods I might want to live in): South Kensington, only two stops East on District line (one of London's 12). Goals: return recruiter calls first thing, get online. First lovely, cool, overcast day very civilized. Too loud in/out; can't talk/surf! Back to room, they call me on way. 3 good convos. Dealing w/recruiters is actually somewhat exciting. I've always really liked job prospects, and even offers the problem is that they all have jobs attached to them, and eventually I have to get up in the morning and go do one of them. Rush -> Mayfair, Berkeley Square, 1st time no camera. Leaves on ground. I check trees. It's autumn! Allow myself to sit for just a few minutes. Stiff breeze reinforces autumn idea. Spot several of the last, endangered red phone boxes, on the hoof. Traditional place. Back home, rain rolls in. Seminal evening: first London rain, lose umbrella, top up phone same place I buy a mini A-Z. Day 6: back on tube -> Hampstead CN! Freakin' gorgeous. Later, when I tell Ali, she laughs and says my taste has definitely improved from E, W, EC. If get int. agency job, this is place to live. Lovely High St., Hampstead Heath (best park). Loving this commuting thing eager to start doing it for real (attachments!) Nero comes through! 1 Hampstead High St. I'm really making a virtue of necessity w/no Neros near my room. Bookstore, look for new Tibor Fischer new Amis, Ballard, Coupland. Perhaps I got hung up on Ds . . . HERE'S what an asset is: Yourself. Your own capabilities, resilience, determination, smarts, ability to innovate. (Context: "last trips to London, think about all the assets I had . . .") [not obliged to anyone] Day 7: Out early, it's quite cold. After hours and days of studying, Cimex interview in Islington aweseom, seedy, SOMA/East Village-ish. Meet with James, nail it, open, casual, trendy, stylish, bikes. Canary wharf, 9/11, servers. Stop shop, 4 walnuts, pear, plum, pistachios, open nuts under boot heel (eat off path). Trick to nuts: shell them to slow self down Caffe Nero Notting Hill Gate: couches, jazz, hot Italian baristas. D8: let myself sleep an extra hour, then had tea and did some work on laptop in room. Then back to NH CN (like that one). Sent soem mail, talked to some recruiters, party Saturday in Egham. Lunch crowd hits, bail out and walk up Notting Hill proper. Lovely; rich. Sit on bench and eat banana thats' been warmed by my laptop battery. Gotta like a pub call Rat & Parrot. First paper Spectator: 175th! First run: Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park. (A little dumpy really, like running on a moor.) Boots: wildly popular, but no toiletries available in grocery stores Found winning CN: Kensington High St., one tube stop (walkable), *2* tables w/power in non-smoking. BOTH are out of sight, so can not order stuff D14: run in other park, out to KHS CN, my usual guy, watches stuff. decide to tube out to Embankment, wrong train, nice lost old woman, direct her, Twain quote most American writer. D16: Make it on tube -> Embankment [Ali SMS]. Golden Jubilee bridge ("Hmm, don't remember this one."), down Thames, London Eye, Houses P, Big Ben Chris Knight dance on hour. Photo angle. Protest, unarmed Bobbies and guy in body armour, smiling, and happily tapping tripper guard of HK. Westminster Abbey. One slightly disappointing discovery has been that bing American in London is about as distinctive as being Italian in New York. 3 weeks, end of 1st week work, I'm happy. I love it here. Warm glow just sitting still. Crossing Tower Bridge, pint w/friends. Saturday: laundry, shopping, cleaning, sitting around eating w/Guardian. Saturday night out, bday party in Soho, Oyster Card, through Leceister Square, Chinatown, like bloody glorious carnival. Discuss plays with Fifers Chekov, Porter: We're in London! Ny finance, Paris fashion. London is beginning and end. It's outside our door! Literally! Paul, geo-map of women, Latvia/Lithuania/Estonia I can get anywhere! Great room, candles, quiet. Bluegrass guitar player at tube staition, dancing. 1-month anniversary: Tate day. Blackfriars Bridge, 1889, Queen Vic. Late, text Henry. "Please do not touch or bounce on this sculpture." "We're in England there's ALWAYS a pub close." "Hmm, where might there be a pub? Maybe if we went down to Putney?" England/SA - big victory. pub atmosphere, "England!" strange game, smash-mouth, getting into it. Japan Centre, food, frustration Leicester Square, wow, dispatching conundrum, selfish want it for me. but also want to preserve the moment for me. But this is different! I want to live it! But it's fleeing! (Khayyam verse?) our earlier conversation about fife's friend shooting and filming everything. I understand she's flailing against her mortality. Fife on painting wanting to leave something behind. this is great. Fife, when down, come here, see people smiling, how bad could life be? Fife says brilliant to be seeing it through my eyes, all aglow it had just become where he lived. LANDMARK MOMENTS IN THE LIFE OF A NEW LONDONER Buy and A to Z. Buy first copy of Time Out. Start getting aggravated at bloody American tourists who won't bloody well stopp yapping on the Tube carriages Stop relying on the Tube to get absolutely everywhere, and start learning bus routes. First outing w/Jacqui National Portrait Gallery, Muushi Photographers Gallery Veg place in Soho 5.11.2003 glorious Bonfire Day, sitting in St. Paul's Churghyard, eating bananas and pears, and not reading Martin Amis. Tonight: Battersea Park. (Been listening to Hovverphonic's "Battersea" at desk on MP3 player. Coincidence? Get home from work, head out, back into commuter throng. 4 stops -> Putney Br., step out, air smells pungently, gloriously, *autumnal*. London making me smile. Plenty of workplace angst, reltaed to, well, having to go somePLACE each day and WORK. The wiggling, struggling, sperm-like throng of people on a rush-hour Tube platform, it occurs to me, is rather emblematic of life in the world and instructively so. Consider: You soon realize that: * Everyone's pretty much in the same boat as everyone else, and on equal footing; * Everyone's really just trying to get where they need to be. * The vast majority of people really have no desire to get in your way much less elbow you out of theirs. * Everything works much better with healthy doses of patience, humility, and generalized courtesy and you're better off practicing these things EVEN IF OTHER PEOPLE DON'T. Josh Weekend Tate Modern w/Josh, Mandy, others Somerset House, Lord Mayor's fireworks pub Sunday: Nat History museum, turkish tea house, great food/conversation w/J,J,&J 2003WPotY Notes: best of 20.5K entries, amateurs, pros "Achieving the perfect picture is down to a mixture of vision, lauck and knowledge of nature, which doesn't necessarily require an armoury of equipment and global travel." Steppe eagle fighting a maribou stork! Freaking unbelievable makes me so excited about photography as an art form. White Barn owl, trigger, mouse, wings and legs fully extended amazing! 5 or 6 from Namibia - 3 from Etosha, 1 from Namib desert Best name: Alwin A K van der Heiden Roosen 11-14 y/o category! 10-and-under category!! Lions surround by tourist tyre tracks in Serengeti (World in Our Hands). That was me. Red colobus monkey, Jozani Forest, Zanzibar *"I positioned the Landrover between the lions and myself so that I wouldn't distrub their siesta.." M: "Takes cajones to try to pass that one off." J: "Yeah the lions would be disturbed if they had to come over and eat me." Korean in New Malden, w/all Fife: 4 Stages of the Immigrant ("I glow") "Wow I've never been punched in the face like that before!" 22Nov03, Sat run in mist in boneyard Imperial War Museum w/MM! Free Stage at Jazz Festival, w/MM & J1 Afghani Kitchen, w Katherine Giraffe 23Nov03, Sun run in rain in boneyard National Gallery w/self, painting 1700-1900 Lunch w/self Coffe w/self 25.11.03, Tue Museum of London for lunch, reading in Aldsgate tonight. 26.11 Radiohead playing on my block. 28.11.03 lunch, Fri. Sent PS -> Weisberg Sat in churchyard, serenaded by old guy London - how could Madonna, Tori Amos, and Gwyneth Paltrow ALL be wrong? 30Nov03, Sun First totally low-key weekend (out of 10 or 11). All shopping, and laundry . . .
And that's where we came in. On the odd chance anyone hung on through that . . .