Friday, February 27, 2009

Devils and Dust

On Wednesday morning, I was awakened at an unfortunate hour when Pigpen the Boxerbeast decided he'd violently rattle the mattress by excavating his ear canals with his back feet. I couldn't force my eyeshades to close again so I snarled into the kitchen to start my day, passive aggressively stepping in his water dish on the way to the fridge.

Fast forward a handful of hours and I'd done nothing but ingest enough Diet Coke to eradicate any lingering tooth enamel. I'd already seen the episode of 227 set to air at eight and was searching for a new method of procrastination when I locked eyes with my planner, saw the words 'Ash Wednesday' written in ten point font, and decided to drop into the early mass.

I pulled on a pair of pants that didn't have an elastic waistband, debated whether to wash my face since it was just going to get smudged with God Dust and headed to the church. I actually knew where it was without having to fire up the GPS, not because I attend regularly but because it serves as the finish line for one of my favorite 5K races. I've earned a t-shirt for each time I've entered the building, a 100% cotton reminder that this particular parish gives more money than a now defunct Auto-Zone but less than Krispy Kreme. I briefly considered swinging past the confessional to apologize for what I did on my last visit, the unfortunate destruction of Thy Ladies' Room after a bagel and banana-fueled personal best.

Wednesday's 8:15 screening was crawling with school kids in matching sweatshirts and khakis, which meant that it was sure to be a short service. According to the Burberry-wrapped woman beside me, the priest himself was a trainee and this early show was essentially his open mic night. After spending an hour watching him nervously rattle the goblets and almost fumble the ash dish, you understood why he hadn't been handed a weekend gig.

He raced through a heavily accented homily, causing the Neiman Marcus droppings beside me to spend several minutes hissing in totally audible stage whispers about whether he was Spanish or Italian. "He has to be Spanish, right?" a woman with a Marquis cut the size of the collection plate asked at a volume level just this side of Weedeater.

"He's Italian", Burberry replied as we all stood up. "Because he says his L's like Ricky Ricardo."

"RUCY! You got some splainin' to do!" the other said with a dry laugh, catching the attention of a black-clad woman who gave everyone a nasty look before returning her attention to her rosary.

We sat down.

"Ricky was Cuban", I said several minutes later, standing to shake hands with Burberry and skipping 'peace be with you' in favor of TVLand Trivia.

"Oh?" she said, dropping my palm* and looking to her left. "Did you hear that, Kathy? He's from Cuba."

"Who is?" Kathy asked as we settled back on the bench.

After another trip from our knees to our feet, the mass ended and we went in peace.** I'm pretty sure that you're supposed to leave the cross on your forehead until, like, Jesus sees his shadow or something but I caught a glimpse of myself in the rearview and it looked like Father Ricardo had applied the ashes with a paint roller. I spent the afternoon running errands, looking less like a devout pilgrim and more like Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer. *** At the very least, my Ash Face forced me to ponder my Lenten sacrifice**** and I've decided--for the seventh straight year--to give up celibacy.

And double parking.

And sharing a bed with my dog.

* My crippling germaphobia makes the mid-mass handshaking my least favorite thing ever because it's no coincidence that the church and the hospital are named for the same saint. After hand-to-hand contact with several strangers, I always find myself uneasily kneeling on the chancel rail, silently praying that my immune system will hold until I can find the Purell at the bottom of my purse. Peace isn't the only thing you can get from the kid in the next pew.
** I walked out into the courtyard with a lingering sense of disappointment because I'll have to wait ANOTHER year before my secret wish comes true. I always attend these services with hopes that we'll get to see someone whose flesh begins to melt and bubble immediately after they're marked with the ashes, watching in horror until they totally dissolve like one of the Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The day that happens is the day I give a hundred dollar offering.
*** I was tempted to stand in Target judging the bare foreheads of the other shoppers, yelling things like "THOSE LEGGINGS AREN'T FOR HEATHENS".
**** Burberry beside me decided that for Lent she would "teach Lexi how to read." Perfect. Jesus would prefer that your child didn't roll into Easter as an illiterate.

Also, I have more words over at BitchBuzz today, all about songs that were snubbed by The Academy. There's also at least a cumulative twenty minutes of YouTube to watch, in case you were wondering how to spend your afternoon.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Weakest Links

If I tell you to warm up your mouse, it's totally not a euphemism. Here's some stuff for clickin'.

1) As I attempt to take over the internet, I hope to supplement my bloggery with more, you know, actual journalism* and stuff. Unfortunately I kind of suck at it. Behold three minutes** of what not to do during an interview.

I sincerely hope I'll get to alienate all kinds of people in the future, or at least make them uncomfortable by insisting that I sit close enough to them that our knees touch.

2) I'll be contributing regularly to an up-and-kickin' site called BitchBuzz, spilling several hundred words a week on TeeVee and tunes and flicks and stuff. My first article went up today and it's all about my favorite spandex-wearing British comedian, Russell Brand.

3) Finally, if you missed the Oscars last night because you were doing something that didn't involve sinking deep enough into the sofa cushions that you almost made it to Narnia, here are my own personal highlights, everything from the fact that I would lick live bees off of Daniel Craig's chest to sadly realizing that at some point between 1988 and now, Kevin Kline turned into Mark Twain.

4) That's it.

* Seriously, I'm pitching several pop culture-y sites a week, throwing lots of words in everyone's inbox in the hopes that something will stick. If you guys have any suggestions, leave 'em in the comments. The day I get hired to write about music is, well, probably the day I'll get run down by a distracted UPS driver.
** My only regret is that my giant face takes up the entire frame,*** totally shotblocking the Billy Joel t-shirt I'm wearing.
*** Except for an uncredited appearance by the light switch on the wall.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Editing My Profile

It's my fifth day back home and I've settled back into everything but a sleep schedule that doesn't involve waking during those infomercial-only hours of the early morning. Flinging myself across the Atlantic was an excellent decision, I think, to help me brush the dust off my brain hemispheres and to give me a heavily-accented incentive to finally pack up my stuffed dinosaur and move from this tobacco-scented Southern town.*

What I haven't really dealt with is that shortly before I printed my boarding passes, my relationship status changed back to "Single". The New Boyfriend has been reclassified as The New Former Boyfriend and--for the first time ever--it was my decision to end things. I'd never broken up with anyone before, not even men who deserved it for removing my wisdom teeth,** having an abnormal fixation with all things Fleetwood Mac, or for spending our entire Saturday-only courtship thinking that my name was Teresa.***

I struggle to end relationships with anything, really, which explains why I still donate $2.99 a month for MySpace Mobile, never checked 'cancel' on those Rolling Stone renewal cards, and still shop at the grocery store that rewards my loyalty by occasionally selling me packages of rotten beef. But this was different, for some reason, and needed to be done because in the last three weeks of our transcontinental courtship, he stopped finding it necessary to call...or to respond to my emails...or to do anything that would even live in the same subdivision with Making An Effort.

We were 2,100 miles from each other, tucking ourselves in two hours apart every night and snuggling beside a huge chunk of the country, so we really didn't need any additional distance between us. That's what I thought anyway, but after being ignored like an after-Christmas poinsettia for almost a month, I got tired of making excuses, leaving messages, and being both halves of the relationship. If I wanted to be with someone who doesn't talk to me, that I can't see, and who rarely answers my questions, I'll just reintroduce myself to Catholicism.

So I broke up with him.

Having been on the business end of that transaction more than once, I expected it to feel the same way on the other side, for it to be the same mascara-wrecking, face-creasing kind of emotional upheaval that would make me throw open the door and run down the sidewalk in the rain. But it didn' wasn't even cloudy that day. No, what I felt was more wistful kind of sadness, like learning that a TV show you used to watch had just been canceled.

I had no idea what to expect of him, but he's responded by being 40-going-on-15, quickly de-friending me on Facebook and unfollowing me on Twitter. I assume if there's no room in his world for my frequent 140-character updates, than it's probably for the best. I also assume that he locked himself in his room, crossed my name off his Trapper Keeper and listened to a lot of New Order songs, but those thoughts all followed an intense night of wishful drinking.

So that's that. Now I just need to find a new grocery store.

* The more I think about my love of all things London, the more I want to live there. If somehow I can parlay my new Brit-based writing gig into a journalist's visa, my shrieks of joy will register on the Richter scale. For real, how can I move there?
** In fairness, he was my oral surgeon and that was kind of his job, but seriously, maybe he could've given me a stronger prescription or something.
*** This happened circa eighth grade. We met on a Youth & Government field trip--he was from one of the exotic suburban schools that had vending machines and mice--and went on one "my mom will take us if yours will pick us up" date to see The Sandlot. After turning my head every time he wanted "Teresa" to pass him some popcorn, he called me a few days later and said that we couldn't go out anymore because my hands were too sweaty.****
**** The last time I held hands with anyone? Circa eighth grade.

Monday, February 16, 2009

London Calling: Day 5

Yes, I'm already back in the States, watching Law & Order reruns and wondering how long I can get away with dropping a u into favourite or an o into foetus before you guys call bullshit. I did want to bang out the details of my last UK day though, before returning to my regular intermittent rants about things I can't do and people I'll never wake up with.

Thursday started with a five mile run through twentysomething temperatures that left me with swollen eyes and the unavoidable facial paralysis you get from forty minutes of somehow always running into the wind. The route took me through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, which was almost enjoyable enough to justify spending the rest of the day looking like a ruddy cheeked stroke victim. I admittedly slacked on my Boston training a bit this week, choosing instead to fill five days with things that I can't do on American soil and ensuring that I'll be cramming extra miles into the weekend when I'll be jetlagged and cranky anyway.

I tried to open my watery eyes long enough to help myself to the hotel breakfast, a soggy set of Weetabix squares and a glass of OJ that was hosting the Pulp Olympics. Oh, and also a Cadbury Creme Egg. Since discovering them in a seasonal bin beneath the Tesco register, I've eaten at least 9 Eggs, and--even in public--I have no problem tonguing one like it's Homecoming and we're hiding behind the bleachers before the dance starts.

The day's first stop was at Tower Hill for more LOOKY I'M IN LONDON pics around the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and Tower Public Restrooms Where My Tower Stall Was Out of Tower Squares of Tower Toilet Paper, Causing Me To Briefly Considered Sacrificing My Tower Scarf for The Tower Cause.

I stepped back out to enjoy the sun's brief cameo and was setting up my lame looking tripod when a flourescent-vested copper came over to tell me that I couldn't use a 'pod to take snaps of the bridge. "That's...weird," I said--ever the wordmaster--dropping a hand onto my hip. He shrugged. "Can't you just hold it then?" I was going to explain about being by myself and how I just wanted to be in the picture but decided that wouldn't make me look anything except several shades of sad. So I nodded, pretended to be scanning the ground for wherever the last drippings of my dignity may have fallen and walked to the other side of the set up my tripod.

When my three-legged Threat to Society and I finished capturing my best PhotoFace, we wandered through the Borough Market where I stared at tumor-shaped root vegetables and sampled everything from fresh mozzarella to Turkish Delight which I'd always assumed was an option at a massage parlour. Because I hadn't shoved enough food in my gob, I went immediately to lunch at Mala where the Indian eats were placed on bamboo tables by tux wearing waiters. They get daps not only for the decor but also because they didn't hold the lunch special hostage if your accent was from the other side of the Atlantic. And what a special it was. At £15 it was the spendiest meal of the trip but it was well worth it for a pair of appetizers, an overflowing entree sampler, basmati rice, naan, dessert, and a complimentary food fetus (foetus) for you to sport for the rest of the day.

Pleased I could hide my distended stomach behind the toggles of my Paddington Bear coat, I took off toward the Royal College of Surgeons to swing through the Hunterian Museum, another creeptastic collection of skeletons, plastic models of pituitary glands and endless glass shelves of dead things in jars. As off-putting as it sounds, my interest in the collection was partially fueled by my attraction to all things medical (ahem, House) and because last week I'd finished reading The Knife Man, a bloody good (SEE WHAT I DID THERE) biography of John Hunter--the man whose name is etched onto the museum doors--described on the book jacket as "a medical innovator, an eccentric, and the person to whom anyone who has ever had surgery probably owes his or her life".

After blowing past the last set of amputation saws, I hustled back across town to grab beverages at The Crown and Two Chairmen with the insanely cool editor/founder/writer of a shiny new website I'm going to be writing for within the next few weeks (Stay tuned... ). By the time we'd finished covering, well, everything, I'd crunched my last ice cube and it was time to head north to Islington for the Robyn Hitchcock concert.

The show was at Union Chapel, which--I learned on my ill-fated trip to the loo--has a chunk of Plymouth Rock on display. That seems like an odd thing for an English church to hold on to, kind of like if I framed up a few pics of the woman my ex left me for, placed them in a shadow box and typed a few captions about how thrilled I was that she'd found a new home on my old pillow.

The opening act, American acoustic strummer Catherine Feeny, was very good and if you're a fan of Feist--both her music and her bangs--or Sheryl Crow before she discovered Kid Rock and Current Events, you may want to give her a listen. She played a solid set, including a kiss-off song called "He's Like You Only Better" that had the kind of lyrics I can see myself slurring into someone's voicemail when I'm drunk and sobbing after a trip to the wrong side of 3 a.m.

After Catherine cleared her own amps from the stage, it was finally time for me to see Robyn Hitchcock. FINALLY, after digging him for the better part of a decade. My iPod's been overfed with almost 500 of his songs, I can spit out his birthday faster than I can recall my own, and will gladly give you several soliloquies about his brilliance before you can leave the room but that Thursday night, in a cold church on the north side of London, was the first time I'd seen him live. THE FIRST TIME. And he did not disappoint. For almost two hours I sat on a pew totally transfixed--save for the rapid unfurling of my tongue--singing along to "The Museum of Sex", waiting for the lightning bolts and hoping they'd be aimed at the two-legged rhinovirus in front of me who dropped his used tissues onto the floor.*

After the Epic Fail of only finding the words "Good" and "Show" to say to him when he was standing close enough for me to tuck his hair behind his ear (and I was so tempted), I headed back to the hotel to reluctantly start chucking things toward my suitcase, which meant "eat a sandwich and watch a documentary about folk music until 2". Good show. Fuck.

* Shortly after posting about my Hitchcrush, I got several emails expressing concern, confusion or just "Whuh?". Sorry guys. When you combine his wordplay with his worldview, hand it a Telecaster and put it inside that overtly English six foot two package, I'm helpless to resist. Robyn-with-a-Y aside, I've always had a Thing for musicians, even though you won't see any if you snorkel through the wreckage of my past relationships. Seriously. You could probably prop a shit-stained railroad hobo onstage, give him an amp and a gee-tar and he'd have me by the no-no place before he got to the chorus.

And here we have the last set of London-fueled snaps. Single tear.

I am almost 30. Just keep that in mind.

Yes, officer, I did hold the camera for this shot and was able to leave my Terrorism Starter Kit safely tucked in my messenger bag.

Hey, I like your boots and also the fact that we have the same haircut. That's a sentence that could be spoken by either person in this picture.

The sampler platter, I finished almost all of it with the quickness, summarized as NOM NOM NOM EW LAMB NOM NOM NOM.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

London Calling: Day 4

OK, I'm actually back in the US, listening to the last of my laundry rumbling in the dryer and wiping toaster strudel crumbs on my t-shirt but I'm still going to post my last two UK-filled days so let's all pretend that I'm still fumbling with my Oyster card (not a euphemism) and wandering through SW7...

On Wednesday I was up early, padding around my frigid hotel room and huddling naked beside the towel warmer long enough to make it uncomfortable. Despite the cold, I wanted to get out early, fill up memory cards for my head and my camera and walk around the parts of the city I hadn't stomped through in a couple of years. It was right at 7 when I was downing a pair of Tesco donuts, sending 'em into my stomach by twos like it's a trans-fat friendly Ark. I scrambled off the tube at Westminster, stopping in the sidewalk to flash my TOURIST badge by snapping shots of Big Ben and the London Eye.

I strolled past Westminster Abbey before hoofing it all the way down Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, stopping for a cup of Starbucks solely to use as a venti-sized handwarmer. I had the square essentially to myself that morning which was half cool and half meant that I stood in front of the lions clumsily setting up my tripod so I would actually pop up in a couple of self-timed snapshots, completing my transition to Sad Solo Traveler. From there I took The Strand to Fleet Street, singing Sweeney Todd lyrics to myself despite the fact that the lower half of my face was frozen.

The first official stop of the day was the Tate Britain which I thought was more enjoyable than the Modern. There I could actually revel in the works themselves, rather than spending two hours wandering from room to room with a confused expression last seen when the Waltons learned about toilets that flush. The T-Brit opens with several obligatory rooms decorated with oil-scented portraits of Lord and Lady Stuffybottom but after that, I got lost in the JMW Turner collection and really dug William Blake vs. Cecil Collins room, the creeptacular Francis Bacon and--my personal fave--David Hockney. I swung through the gift shop and picked up a few postcard sized reproductions that I'll frame and hang, transforming my home from 'ordinary apartment' to 'ordinary apartment with postcards on the wall'.

After Tate-ing, it was on to the Imperial War Museum. Here's when I started to hate my feet, cursing every leather-encased step, a situation made worse because on several occasions it seemed like the Time Out guidebook writers hadn't ever tested the Tube stops they recommended. I winced my way through Elephant and Castle, a place that sadly doesn't feature either one of those items.*

The museum was another must-see if you--like me--consider watching the History channel to be foreplay, getting fluffed just by scrolling through their schedule. Obviously the focus was on England's participation in world conflicts, so don't expect any Civil War nonsense but there's plenty of stuff about, like, Turkey. The highlights were the WWI Trench Experience which led you through a recreation of, um, a trench which is perfect if you've ever wondered what the Great War smelled like. The WW2 floor put you into a shelter during the Blitz before you walked through a streetscape ablaze as pseudo-bombs landed around you. Putting my snark on a shelf for a sec, the Blitz is fascinating to me, if only because of what Londoners endured for almost two months straight, night after night of knowing they might wake up surrounded by still-smouldering scraps of their lives, watching their world blow helplessly down charred streets.
The other two floors involved the atrocities of war, which I won't cheapen by writing about but suffice it to say that you'll feel a bit unsteady as you descend the stairs to the lobby.

And now back to me being an ass.

I grabbed a bite in the Imperial War Cafeteria, stuffing my face with a cheese and chutney sandwich beneath a vintage poster for food rationing. Here's where my day reached a crossroads. My feet were killin' me--aching at a level I didn't think I'd reach until my skin was decorated with liver spots or I had a purse full of coupons for Poise pads. My choice was to go alllll the way back to the hotel, change into my running shoes, and head back out for more good times. Instead, I spotted Lillywhites Sports where the windows were wearing giant SALE banners and bought a pair of clearance Karrimors, dropping £12 (about $18) to keep taking it to the streets Pointer Sister style. At this point the sun had clocked out for the day and--of course--it was raining but was too thrilled about liberating my feet that it didn't matter.

From there, I clicked my heels all the way down Charing Cross to St. Martin in the Fields church. I'm only moderately religious, clutching a St. Christopher's medal with both hands any time I'm within eyesight of an airplane but my devotion stops somewhere between there and owning a Jesus Jones album. That said, London churches fascinate me, probably because of a well-blended combo of their history, architecture, or their resilience. So I attended the 5:30 prayer service and earned enough God credits to theoretically skip out on Ash Wednesday.

My spirit renewed--save for the parts of it that nodded off--I walked 100 yards to the National Gallery which was not my thing, not at all. Other than my Renaissance-era relative, most of the paintings housed there just didn't grab my attention. They didn't even make eye contact with my attention or accidentally bump into my attention as it tried to find a bathroom. I stuck it out long enough to barrel through the numbered galleries, quickly crossing each one off the map, like a scavenger hunt where at the end you'll find boredom and bitterness.

Wednesday's dinner came courtesy of The Golden Hind where I inhaled a plate overflowing with the best fish n' chips I'd ever had. The place was stacked to the rafters with locals but despite the crowd, the manager--an insanely friendly Greek guy--took the time to chat about where I was from, to ask why I was in town and to talk about his cousins in South Carolina.** Between courses, I sat at the table writing out postcards shaped like Prince Harry's head and wondering if I could order Spotted Dick for dessert without snickering. I could not.

After fourteen hours out-n-about, I crashed early, sound asleep before the woman signing the soap operas could finish waving out her first sentence.

* I had the same disappointment upon rolling into Cockfosters. The Tube map is littered with fantastic names including a stop on the DLR called Mudchute, which is how I'll be referring to my own, um, back gate from now on.
** I talked to at least three people who had relatives in South Carolina, including a Brazilian guy at the Robyn Hitchcock concert. Maybe it's the close proximity of outlet malls.

Looky! Pictures! Because this post isn't long enough!

Large Benjamin.

Not pictured: The squirming humiliation of setting the timer on your tripod-ed camera and racing to the front of the statue where you'll stand awkward and alone for at least another eight seconds before the shutter clicks.

The London Eye, also known as "The Reason I Stopped in the Middle of The Sidewalk, Angering Several People With Day Jobs Who Had to Walk Around Me While I Insisted on Turning My Camera The Other Way".

These is my guns. Also, I swear I didn't wear the same thing every day. Well, except for the jacket and messenger bag combo. But UNDER that was a totally clean-and-unique-to-the-trip shirt.

This plaque was stapled out front just for me because as soon as I rounded the corner and the guns came into view, my first thought was "I wonder if I could climb on those before the self-timer goes off".

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mini Update: Day 5

I'm just back from seeing Robyn Hitchcock at the Union Chapel, where I sat close enough to catch his eye and gawked at him long enough to make him uncomfortable. We can examine my fondness for this gentleman--from his surrealist not-for-everyone lyrics to his hilarious between-song banter to his commitment to tight pants--a bit later. Instead, let's talk about how immediately after the show I scanned the stage for leftover set lists before scrambling to the ladies' room. I quickly released two cans of Coke back into the wild, pulled a scrap of toilet paper off my shoe, and headed back into into the almost-empty church. I was too busy ensuring that both sides of my scarf were equal lengths when I almost smacked directly into the sternum of ROBYN HITCHCOCK.

I looked at him, open mouthed. "Sorry," he said, to which I responded " show." GOOD SHOW. I spent two hours thinking about how much marmalade it would take to coat his entire chest* and that's the best I could do. No "Can I trouble you for a picture?" or "You were the best part of Rachel Getting Married"** or "Wanna sign my A-cups?".


There's a chance I can confront him with my awkwardness again when he rolls into my home state*** at the beginning of April. This time I'll be ready. With several jars of marmalade.

* My jam-fueled fantasy was quickly euthanized when he said the worst six words ever: "This one's dedicated to my wife."
** He makes a brief uncredited appearance as--what else--a singer in the wedding band.
*** This tour's to support his latest, Goodnight Oslo. If you're already a fan, it builds on what he and the V3 started with Ole! Tarantula. If you're not (yet), you may dig the hint of R.E.M. you'll hear, courtesy of Peter Buck.

Mini Update: Day 4

Things I Learned at the National Gallery:

1) There was an entire square on the museum map dedicated to the Italian painter Titian. Fun fact about me: I'm a direct descendant of this dude. Since scraps of his DNA may have been handed down to my own inferior double helix, I lingered a bit too long in this room, eventually being approached by a woman with an embroidered sweater to see if I needed any assistance. This was the opening I'd been waiting for and I pointed to a skillfully brushed portrait of a guy with an arrow and shrieked "I'M RELATED TO HIM!" She looked at me like I'd pulled my molars out and presented them to her, took a deep breath and said "That's the goddess Diana, I'm afraid." I tried to explain that I meant Titian--breaking out my best Italian 101 to pronounce his given surname of Vecellio--but she was neither particularly impressed, nor did she stand beside me long enough to hear the rest of the sentence.

2) Only works by three of the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were on display. Sorry, Donatello. Not only do you get the shittiest weapon in the group, you also didn't score a place beside the gilded frames of the others.

3) Cherubs are uncircumcised.

4) If you believe the paintings, the only people who lived from 1400-ish to 1600-ish were men with velvety hats who liked to accessorize with leather books and pheasants, dead eyed children who--according to the caption--had a nasty habit of becoming actually dead after being painted, horses, and people who liked to kill Jesus.

5) On the enjoyability scale, this took the bronze behind the pair of Tates (more on my trip to the Tate Britain later). It was nice to actually catch a glimpse of Van Gogh's "Sunflowers", which I recognized from the Freshman Dorm starter kit. Every year I attended college, at least 7 out of 10 girls had that taped to the wall. Of the other 3, two of 'em had Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and I wasn't ever friends with the other one, but I'm assuming she owned something from Spencer Gifts.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

London Calling: Day 3

OK, for reals, I may have to chew my feet off before coming home, like a raccoon caught in a trap. My dogs ache. Despite London's stellar public transportation system--extra props for the attractive strangers I've casually brushed against on the Bakerloo line--I've done a hell of a lot of walking here.

Yesterday started with a jam-filled donut from Tesco, because I am powerless to resist a bin full of pastries filled with simple sugars and lightly dusted with crack. Also, I'm cheap. After licking the crumbs off my hands, watchband, and wallet, I hiked to the British Library, hurrying past everything but a diary belonging to Lewis Carroll and any item that may have been touched by a Beatle, even the Ringo-y remnants.

From there, I kicked it to the other side of Euston Road, pausing several times to collect the pieces of my face that froze, shattered, and fell to the sidewalk. My next stop was The Wellcome Collection, an offbeat but insanely interesting bit of museum-age that focuses on medical oddities and tidbits from, um, Mister Wellcome's, uh, collection. For reals, the museum says that it concentrates on "the connections between medicine, life, and art" which I find very appealing. I probably had enough science-y talents to have been an M.D. but my lack of compassion and patience ensured that I would've been beaten to death with an outdated issue of People after telling a feverish sickie that if he'd been smarter, maybe he could heal himself.

Their current exhibition is about War and Medicine, covering everything from the creation of the first prosthetic noses to the fact that condoms distributed to the German military were labeled "Discard After Using". Upstairs in the permanent gallery were all kinds of oddities, from Napoleon's toothbrush to a collection of ancient Japanese sex toys to Benjamin Disraeli's death mask. No, I didn't know who he was either.

Next up was the British Museum which is beyond overwhelming with its overstuffed rooms flowing into overstuffed rooms, eras and empires bumping into each other. It's a bit like crawling into Wikipedia but without all the made up bullshit. I spent over two hours there and just covered The Egyptians, The Greeks and The Romans. I'm pretty sure if I gathered my things and took up residence there, nobody would notice unless they found my droppings under the Rosetta stone.

Leaving the BM (snickersnicker), I was one more Elgin Marble away from a culturally-induced aneurysm. I ducked into A Taste of Evil Spice restaurant, an Indian joint just off of Oxford Street. It was packed and the scrawl on their chalkboard shouted about a £5 lunch special. Score, right? But here's the thing. Everyone here has been nice, if a bit distant. I know my personality is an acquired taste--like pralines or Steely Dan or midget porn--but sometimes I think people hear this A-merican accent, see the Hamburger Helper flying out of my mouth, and immediately deduct a hundred IQ points.

I took a seat, sucked down a Diet Coke Mean Joe Greene-style and asked for the aforementioned lunch deal. The waiter--who had the overhanging brows and lush 'stache of a very powerful wizard--shook his head and said nope, that was just until 2:00 so I'd have to order from the menu. Yeah, sure, whatever but as soon as the words "garlic naan" tumbled off my tongue, a group of British dudes strolled in, asked for the lunch special and The Wiz gave them a nod. I almost walked out but was afraid he'd turn me into a tapestry. Before I'd realized that refills weren't free, a table full of Swedes was getting the "just till 2:00" line--the Screwed Plate Special--and s'more locals got the deal. If I hadn't been sucking the curry sauce out of my sweater, I would've said something.

I tubed back to the hotel, changed out of my clothes--which had started to smell like wet rabbits full of deviled eggs--and headed south to Brixton to see Russell Brand. If you're not familiar with Mister Brand, he's a comedian/former BBC radio host*/walking erection/Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Aldous Snow who lives his life like he's put out an Amber Alert for finding trouble. Google him, kids. He's brash and egotistical and overdone and awesome. The two hours of his show focused on his recent troubles--plural--crammed with well-crafted wordplay about everything from his overworked meatstick** to his crush on Helen Mirren. After the show, he strutted off the stage and into to the lobby looking for women to nail. "If you come backstage," he said "It's not for an autograph. Unless you want me to sigh your uterus". No, he didn't pick me. Probably because he could smell my sweater.

* I think part of the reason I like him is because he, too, has been fired from almost every job. Granted, Russell's sackings have been sex and/or drug-related and one of mine was 'cause I parked in the Visitor space in front of the office.
** He won The Sun's "Shagger of the Year" award three times, so it's now the Russell Brand Shagger of the Year award. By contrast, I once got a trophy for correctly tying my shoes.

And here are the snappy snaps.

The sun gave us about fifteen minutes of foreplay before disappearing for the rest of the afternoon. In a related story, I think I once dated the sun.

Respecting the treasures of the British Museum. Also, WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOUR PUPILS?

When I stopped to take this picture, a guy walked past me and said "Nice haircut." I didn't know whether he was being serious or sarcastic and that bothered me for the rest of the evening. It STILL bothers me.

"I'm into threesomes. Two girls and me," he said. "Because I'm trying to find the right girl and it's quicker if I go through them in pairs." Then he signed some chick's boobs, for probably the 97th time...that day.

And then he tricked me into bed. Damn you, Russell Brand, you floppy haired minx.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mini Update: Day 3

This heinous, Trapper Keeper color graph shows the amount of time I spent looking at the things on display in the British Library. If it's not listed, it was in one of the dimly lit cases I raced past, pausing long enough to see boring words like "daguerreotype", "map" or "Sylvia Plath" before moving on.

London Calling: Day 2

I spent most of the day yesterday colder and wetter than a Cocker Spaniel's nose but that didn't stop me from covering several sections of the map. I kicked off the day with a breakfast pastry that involved cheese and sausage baked into it and had to resist the urge to make out with it before I ate it. There were several line closures on the Tube--every train was overstuffed, damp and squirming with other impatient people wearing wet overcoats--so it took forever to get to the Tate Modern. I caved to my claustrophobia a couple of stops too early and decided to walk across the Millenium Bridge despite the weather. I realized that was a bad idea about the time my jeans got soaked past my kneecaps.

Anyway, I spent several hours wandering through the Tate Modern, feeling both insignificant--for escaping my twenties without creating anything that will ever be studied by a group of fidgeting schoolchildren--and borderline doofus for not recognizing several of the -isms on display. Regardless, the collection was enjoyably overwhelming. I'm no art critic--most of the stuff on my walls had to have the clearance stickers scraped off before I could hang it--but my only complaint was that sometimes the transitions from room to room were jarring. You went from the whimsy (OH YES, I SAID WHIMSY) of Matisse's "Snail" to something splattery by Jackson Pollack to the unsettling works of Paul McCarthy and Hermann Nitsch, including a video installation of Mister McCarthy's that haunted me for the rest of the day and also ensured that I'll never eat ketchup again*.

I wiped the culture off my clothes, grabbed a sandwich from Tesco and switched gears to visit the Natural History Museum, which I'm pleased to say never made me feel stupid because I didn't have to figure out what the artist's intention was when he placed a pygmy deer in a glass case. It's a dead animal. Done. Also, I probably took more pictures of the animatronic Tyrannosaurus than I did of St. Paul's cathedral. My love for all things Dinosaur would only make sense if I were an 8 year old boy.

Finally, I spent the rest of my daily allowance on a ticket to see James "I Swear I Have More Than One Facial Expression" McAvoy in Three Days of Rain, a play that was unintentionally hilarious because of the actors' collective struggles to do two acts worth of American accents. The show hasn't officially opened yet and the critic sitting in front of me stood up and said loudly "Right, couldn't we just have gotten this play on DVD then?" which probably explains why he nodded off several times, only to be jarred awake by the sound of thunder rumbling through the speakers.

* There were several projectors showing overlapping movies of several condiment covered dudes doing unspeakable things with a roll of sausages, a jar of mayonnaise, and a boxing glove. I wish I were kidding.

And now, pictures:

St. Paul's. I stepped in a puddle when I turned around to take this so I felt obligated to upload it. This was also my only pic of Paulie that didn't show the scaffolding surrounding it. Apparently he's in the middle of a facelift which is totally acceptable if you're 330 years old. I expect Larry King to undergo a similar procedure later this year.

This is where K.I.T.T. works during the day. I tried to get someone to take my picture beside the marker but no one understood my failing hand gestures, even when accompanied by the shouted phrase "DAVID HASSELHOFF".

Helping the dinosaurs eat. I'm pleased to report that during my three attempts to self-snap this pic, I made a child cry.

In my head, we were singing "Somewhere Out There" to each other.

BALLER. I sacrificed my dinner money for you James McAvoy. The least you could've done was step off the stage to mash faces with me.

Monday, February 09, 2009

London Calling: Day 1

Well, hell-ooo London.

I'm keeping this short because the $40 "My Giant American Prong's Too Powerful for Your Wee British Socket" adapter kit I bought before leaving the States doesn't work for my computer and I'm trying to maximize the amount of battery I have left, at least until I go sob to the staff of the closest electronics store and explain that my trip will absolutely be ruined unless I can blog about it.

Anyway, my flight was uneventful and actually dropped into the UK half an hour early yesterday morning. It was maybe a quarter full, which meant that I flipped up all of the armrests in the middle row, combining seats 26 C through F to make MEGASEAT. I popped two Benedryl before getting on the plane and that--combined with a meal that one side of the plane was told was beef, the other informed it was chicken, but everyone agreeing that it tasted like heavily salted mop water--meant that I stretched out and slept until the Cap'n announced our approach into Gatwick.

The customs line took forever, a situation that I probably didn't help by writing "Blogger" as my occupation on the immigration form. Anyway, after train to tube to inevitably wheeling my suitcase half a mile in the wrong direction, I was ready to start my holiday.

This is where the magic happens. And by "magic" I mean convincing myself that the furtive rustling I heard within the walls during the night was actually the tooth fairy, not a tiny foraging mammal.

The view from my hotel room. Moving on.

Yesterday took me toward the West Ham-Manchester United football* match, and although tickets were more than my hotel room, it was still beyond entertaining to see the crowds. If you think you love Your Favorite Sports Team, please take a moment to reconsider. After spending the afternoon in a swarm of Hammers fans, I assure you that you do not.

The official West Ham team toaster. Because breakfast just tastes better with your team's logo burned into it. This was on a rack that also featured West Ham baby bottles, West Ham shoelaces, and a West Ham intra-uterine device.

I stopped in the doorway of this house to wring some of the rain out of my eyelashes and then noticed the marker. As delighted as I was to locate Benny Hill's place by accident, I was also thrilled that there's something called the "Dead Comic's Society". They're keeping an eye on you, John Cleese.

The rest of the day involved alternately getting drenched and/or shivering, wandering around the Oxford Street area, grabbing a bite at pub called The Goat on Kensington High Street, and collapsing in a wet socked heap by 9...which of course meant that by 3:30 a.m. I was wide awake and watching Take That videos on television.

I noticed this during a pre-dawn soap opera... instead of closed captioning, there's a chick in the corner who actually signs the dialogue, which I found to be more entertaining than the actual program.

It's just after 7 now and I'm ready to grab a bite and take on the day. More from me later, assuming I don't suffocate myself in the folds of a flaky breakfast pasty.

* They call it football here. In America, we call it boring.**
** I KID! I KID!

ALSO: What's the best Indian restaurant here? I'd knife a bitch for some chicken korma.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Seacrest Out

Every year I go through the same drill. I tell myself that I'll just watch American Idol during the unintentionally hilarious Hollister-scented audition episodes* but then inevitably it's Hollywood week and I'm still lip-syncing Seacrest's intros, sinking deeper into the sofa cushions, draped with a 45-pound dog blanket and shouting things at the screen about the contestants' scarf selections.**

Last night I tuned in at the gym while I did a low-impact climb of the animated mountains on the elliptical machine, willing to bludgeon my brain matter in exchange for an ass perky enough to serve a Butterball on. The teevees attached to the cardio equipment have all been formatted with closed captioning, tediously scrolling sentences across the screen at a glacial speed matched only by grocery store conveyor belts and mall walkers, which means when I'm getting my AI on, every word the contestants belt out tag teams both my eyes and ears.

Last night, though, it served a purpose. One contestant whose name I can't remember but who wore a glitter t-shirt and a pair of impractical glasses*** sang Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" and I stopped mid-pedal, shocked to learn that the lyrics to that song aren't "Now that the rose isn't bruised/A light hits the glue on the grapes".****

My mind? BLOWN.

My other issue with the Idol is that I can't decide if it should make me more or less secure in my own wardrobe selection. Everyone dresses in layers, the fashion equivalent of a bean dip, dropping tees over oxford shirts, sliding skirts over leggings, along with hats and bangles, headbands and piercings.

Am I supposed to be wear shit like this? Because when I layer, it tends to be a pair of sweatpants under a bathrobe, casually accessorized with a generous splotch of spilled Danimals and a vague sense of impending disaster.

I'm no fashion expert. My closet consists mainly of screenprinted t-shirts and items purchased at stores that also sell padlocks and litter boxes, but I think accessories are like nipples. Two of 'em are totally cool but any more than that and you look ridiculous.

* I also tell myself that I just watch porn to see which sofas are the most stain-resistant.
** Part of my Idolphilia is because I have a thing for Simon Cowell. And by 'thing' I mean 'recently lint-rolled sheets and a vacancy on the nightstand side of my bed'. Yeah, despite his bitch tits, his overdone dental work, and the fact that we have the same haircut.
*** That narrows it down to approximately 143 people.
**** The actual line is "And now that your rose is is in bloom/A light hits the gloom on the grey" which is, like, 1% less nonsensical than what I've been singing since '94.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Forty Three

There's a scene near the end of A Fish Called Wanda when Archie Leach (John Cleese) has ruined his marriage, bungled his law career, and gotten slugged in the face. The dust settles around him in the just-emptied courtroom as he rubs his jaw, adjusts his wig, and says "Well. That's it then."

I felt exactly the same way at the end of the Super Bowl last night. I could click out several more paragraphs about how it feels to get punched in the soul, to ask why 'Zona didn't air it out more in the first half, or how their D could POSSIBLY give up that game-winning, heart-skewering TD. But I won't. Instead I'll let this vid speak for me and it's saying "You know things have gone to shit when you have to use a Nazareth song to express your feelings."

Yeah. That's it then.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

One Slice of Kurt, Please

Yeah, that's how I roll. Unfortunately, I'll be too nervous during the game to consume any of it, spending the better part of four quarters eating nothing but my own fingernails and quite possibly part of the ottoman, depending on how the game unfolds.

Anyway. Go Cardinals and, of course, My Beloved Kurt Warner.*

* The McFarlane Toy Action Figure company hasn't released an Arizona uni-ed version of K-Dub, probably because everyone assumed that by now he'd be out of the league and spending his days politely asking Phoenix-area children to please get off his lawn. Other than the anachronistic Ramswear, it's a totally accurate representation. And it tastes delicious.**

** No, I did not make it. A friend of mine discovered it at Whole Foods and lovingly presented it to me by placing it on the roof of my car then sending me a text message that said "Hey, I left you a present", a phrase that can either be delightful or horrifying. A tip of the helmet to the Whole Foods bakery staff who selected a garish shade of icing so it looks like the game will be played in my parents' living room, circa 1974.