But sad mortality o'ersways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O how shall honey's summer breath hold out
Against the wrackful siege of of batt'ring days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?
O fearful meditation! where, alack,
Shalls Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back,
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
O none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright."
- Wm. Shakespeare (as quoted on the wall of a carriage on the District line)
Heart is so full, and evening is mostly clear, and so I head out toward Chelsea, laptop on back preparing to "kick it old school". That is to say, I'm going to find a congenial pub, treat myself to a pint (and possibly a half), and dispatch with great abandon. Somehow, suddenly, there's so much I want to say.
I decide to cleave to new principles and head out in a completely new direction in this case, down Old Brompton Road, toward (and ultimately into) Chelsea and am immediately rewarded by a lovely, funky swatch of neighborhood, right around the corner from me (only around the corner I never turn, is all). I decide to check out Bromptons which I've already been alerted by Mr. Ian Fischer is a gay bar. Would I have been able to tell from the massive rainbow flags draping the building? Or the extravagantly moustachio'd barman? Either way, I will say it takes a bit of courage-gathering for a straight guy alone even one as enthusiastically gay-friendly as this one to confidently stride into a gay bar. But, what the hell it looks nice and, anyway, I don't currently have really any gay men as friends. Things are, frankly, kind of a drag without them around. Ohh, did I just say that?! At any rate, lamentably, they don't have anything I care to drink, nor conspicuous power taps, so I exeunt and move on.
Ultimately right now, in fact I find myself in another joint further down the drag (crikey, I did it again). I've hardly written anything, due to having been engaged in conversation with Adrian, Charlie, and Eddie three very animated and amusing brothers who've kindly invited me to their table (near a power tap). But . . . on with the dispatch.
A Very Notting Hill Weekend
Found myself there on both day Saturday and Sunday just past. For starters, I had a free afternoon, so decided to Christmas shop. (Both in the sense that I decided to go shopping, and I decided to bite the bullet and buy and ship gifts back to the States.) So, I took myself out to the (much-vaunted) Portobello Road Saturday market, in Notting Hill. It was a total glorious zoo. Everything the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul should be, but emphatically isn't: vast throngs of animated, talking, eating, haggling people; oceans of merchandise, much of it one-of-a-kind, with many bargains to be had; a generally energizing vibe. Stuffed my face with entirely decent trail mix as well as a black bean salad from the walk-in-closet-sized Mexican food stall. Finished my Christmas shopping in three hours (and anybody who knows what a crap shopper I am will be well impressed (with the market)).
Sunday, I had to run by a tailor's up on Kensington Church Street, to drop off a jacket. This, for Mizuho's (my employers) Christmas party, which is get this black tie. I had to read that a couple of times on the invitation. I mean, I know what "black tie" means; but, still, it didn't quite parse. I had to flash the invite in front of my Australian colleague Chris and ask her, "Does this mean what I think it means?" It turns out it does. However, as a contractor, and a rake, the most I was prepared to do was buy a very Keanu-Reaves-in-The-Matrix black linen jacket, with upturned collar, and a sleek black turtleneck. (For £3.99 and £1.99, respectively, at the Oxfam shop.) I'm having the sleeves on the jacket let out. (Which will probably cost £20.00.) At any rate, walking there took me halfway to Notting Hill Gate, so I carried on in the same direction, in the mistaken guess that the Central Line (which Notting Hill Gate tube station is on) would get me near my gallery for the afternoon.
Oh, the woman who took my jacket, was this beautiful, friendly, young, tall, blonde person with this fabulous accent/voice. When I asked her about her homeland, she told me it was "the most beautiful country in Europe. And now you should now the name of my homeland. No?" It turned out she's from Poland. She was impressed that I had spent one day there, but less impressed with my pronunciation of where I'd been ("Wroclaw"). When I heard her rendering of it, I realised A) why my rendering of it had prompted her to suggest that wherever I had been, it wasn't in Poland, and B) that I would never be able to recognizably pronounce "Wroclaw".
Last (Monday) night: a lovely evening of wrapping (not rapping) in my room, and humming Christmas tunes. Why! oh why! did I not rip my traditional Christmas tunes CD (when I uprooted my existence)? (*) But, moreover, and at any rate, I conducted my wrapping session in my BRAND . . . NEW . . . ROOM! That's right, I finally finagled a change (read: upgrade) of accomodations at Earl's Court's luxurious Boka Hotel. I've now got 10 more square feet (if it's an inch), a bigger bed (though, admittedly, they don't make them any smaller than my last one), thick burgundy drapes, a window on the street (rather than the trash heap) and, mainly, no shared wall with the bloody dining room/TV lounge! No more bloody TV noise! Huzzah! Granted, there's street noise but I quite like that. It reminds me that I'm somewhere. Actually, it reminds me of the hotel Laylah found for us in the 4th, in Paris, on my first trip to Europe. The one with the big, throw-open, so-European windows. Anyway, I'm in Room 7 (late of 8). I've even got a proper bookshelf. The 5-lb copy of "The Biography of London" lent me by my friend Jacqui looks just smashing on it. Amazingly, at the same time, I made so bold as to demand the weekly rate that all the other (non-sucker) long-term residents are getting, and am now saving 30 bob a week (on my resplendent suite). So, as with Sara before me, it appears all too likely that I am never leaving the hostel.
Before I moved, I also got to take a look at Room 5, which had also unexpectedly opened. But I soon comfortably concluded that, while every room in the Boka is seedy . . . 7's got character. (And that photo, while getting in the singular contrast between the bedspread, the wallpaper, and the pillow, sadly omits the thick burgundy drapes . . .)
You know what I love? I'll tell you what I love. I love having reserves of strength and speed. For instance, doing a 6-ish mile run in Hyde Park (as I did on Sunday), and running the last mile back in at twice the pace, and energy level, that I ran it going out. God knows this isn't going to last. Knowing that, even knowing that, especially knowing that, I wanted to do something with this run, with this moment. When I hit the park, and made a bee-line for the one little hill for me to run up, sunshine on the damp grass, waterfowl squawking and fluttering around the lake, remote-controlled sailboats, joggers in day-glo spandex dodging doddering toddlers, wild glints on the water, smiles and bon mots on lips, I wanted to save it, I wanted to share it, I wanted to bottle it, I wanted to hold it. But I knew it evaporates on contact (with my . . . whatever it is I have that counts as me), it evaporates on contact, and I spread my arms out straight, by my side, horizontal, cutting the sun-dripping wind, and I shouted out loud, THIS . . . MOMENT . . . IS . . . YOUR . . . LIFE . . . !
- Number of Americans living in London: 35,000
- Number of Britons living in New York: 35,000
- Number of Indians living in London: not quite 500,000
- Number of immigrants who enter the United Kingdom each year: over 900,000
- Rank of New Malden, in south London (and where I recently got a stellar, traditional, family-style Korean meal with 8 friends) amongst largest Korean communities outside of Korea: 1
- Amount of congestion charge, in pounds sterling, that Londoners now have to pay to drive in Central London on weekdays: 5
- Exchange rate of the U.S. dollar to the pound sterling on December 9, 2003: 1.71 / 1
- Geographical size of London: 30 miles across at wide point
- Rank of London amongst Europe's biggest cities: 1 (by far)
- Rough age of London in years (since the first Roman outpost of Londinium): 2000
- Number of text messages Britons sent in October 2003: 1.54 billion
- Number of "Crap Towns" reviewed in a recent surprise entry on the bestseller lists: 50 (from Idler Magazine's 50 Crap Towns a guide to Britain's most depressing places to live)
- Rank of Paul Hartley's "Marmite Cookbook" in the cookery bestseller category: 1
- Rank of Sarah Ford's "50 Ways to Kill a Slug" in the gardening category: 1
- Number of copies of Michael Moore's "Stupid White Men" that have sold in Britain: almost 750,000
- Year in which homosexual acts between men were made legal in Britain: 1969
- Year in which homosexual acts between women were made legal: trick question, they were never outlawed purportedly because Queen Victoria didn't believe such a thing was possible
- Number of Britons who turned out last spring in central London to protest the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime and the liberation of the Iraqi people: 1,000,000
- Number who turned out yesterday to celebrate the vanquishing of the Australian rugby team (in the World Cup finals), and the accute annoyance of the Australian people: 750,000
- Number of points by which England won the 2003 Rugby World Cup: 3
- Year in which England last won a World Cup in any sport: 1966 (football)
- Position amongst most revered, and lusted after, athletes in England that rugby half-fly Jonny Wilkinson (who kicked the World Cup-winning goal in overtime) is competing for against David "Becks, of Posh 'n' Becks" Beckham: 1
- Longest commute amongst my numerous colleagues who own property in Reading, Kent, Brighton, Milton Keynes, etc: 1:40 one way
- Number whose commute is more than an hour one way: tons
- Positions of reading, sleeping, and working as most popular activities on long train commutes: 1, 2, and 3
- Percentage of traffic fatalities in London last year accounted for by motorcyclists: 26
- Percentage of motorists who are motorcyclists: 2
- Number of people in just my department at work who commute by motorcycle (that I know of): 5
- Number of British artillerymen (alone) who died in the Great War (1914 - 1918): 49,076
Okay, bugger that, then it's late, this bit is important, and I'll do it next time. Instead:
Shout Out to Snitch-Dog
Working out in my room tonight, chest-and-upper-back-night, going through a baroque stretching routine, the ChemBro's "Block-Rockin' Beats" came on the ole MP3 player. I smiled out loud remembering the Golden Age of medNET back when we Geeks of the Valley were the annointed, fair-haired boys of the cosmos, doing as we would and getting fat paid and thanked for it. I was of a mind of this, in part, because of Josh (nee Skeet)'s recent visit. We were in the Turbine Hall when he related, to Mandy, the deathless story of when I hired him, back in 97 or 98, pretty much on the basis of the fact that he played Marathon (our first-person, multi-player, high-carnage shooter of choice). I'd all but forgotten that I also hired Snitch pretty much because he had the infamous Dancing Baby on his vanity web site shaking its nappy-covered bits to "Block-Rockin' Beats". As the only better hire I've ever made than Snitch was Skeet, let's all give it up for King Whimsey as soverign of hiring (and other) decisions. Word, Snitchyphus. Get in touch, dog.
If London Can Do This It Can Do Anything (A)
I actually rather like my job.
If London Can Do This It Can Do Anything (B)
I seem to have a date tomorrow, with a beautiful, amiable, 24-year-old, vegan, painter called Heather. I was taking myself to the Tate Britain, and got off the Tube behind a very fine and erect figure capped with a waist-length ocean of radically curly auburn hair and draped in a conspicuously fake leather hip-length jacket (and shod in equally ostentatiously fake leather huge clunky boots). She was there alone. Later on, she admitted that when I asked her, "I hope you don't think I'm intrusive, but are you wearing fake leather gear?" and "May I ask why?" she thought I was going to give her grief about it. (Ie, "Why aren't you wearing leather, dammit?!") We toured the gallery together. Tomorrow, it's one of Plant, Eat & Two Veg, and Blah blah blah (the three veg restaurants I'm most keen to try; the the name of the latter alone certainly gives it a big edge.)
The Wobbly Bridge
After the Tate Britain, I actually walked across Lambeth Bridge, then up the south bank to meet Jacqui at the Tate Modern. We sat on a fourth-floor outside cafe patio, drinking tea, overlooking the Millennium (nee "Wobbly") Bridge and having the most brilliant conversation. The thing about the Millennium Bridge is that when it originally opened, suitably on the millennium, it turned out to have the characteristic of swaying from side to side just a little too much for the comfort of anyone trying to walk across it. The architects insisted that there was never any danger of anyone being dumped in the drink; but it was just completely giving people the howling fantods. So they closed the bridge for a year or two, shored the damn thing up, and re-opened it. Jacqui thought that this was just so very British: having a grand idea for a really lovely and aesthetically top bridge, then really bollocksing up the implementation of it looks lovely, but it doesn't really hold people!; but then doing a gut check, going back to the books, and finally getting it right after all.
I'm also pretty sure it means this is where the future is. I had lunch recently with two guys from work: Blanco Lam (that's him in the bottom left), a Hong Konger who's lived in South Africa and San Francisco (during the boom); and Massimiliano "Max" Brugnoli, an Italian from Milan, who lived in Paris before London. Max talked about how Italy wasn't a place to make your mark: success is still largely determined by who you know; and, as well, women are yet hardly allowed to do anything or get anywhere. But London is utterly different. And that's when I realised what London and the States have in common: built by immigrants. And I realised it's the secret of our success. Any place that gets billed as a fount of opportunity, and thus draws strivers from all over, is going to be the winning place. All the complacency, the get-by and settle-for, the old boys networks, the old ways of doing things, get left in the old country. The people who are after something and are willing to work their tails off (and use their noodles) to get it, and have the courage to risk everything by making the change, and who want to be judged on their merits and their worth and their accomplishments, come out to the frontier. That's why so much of the world's dynamism, and hard work, and good ideas, and creativity and idealism are in such places. (hide)