Sunday, October 28, 2007

Say Anything

So, John Cusack had a private bikram yoga session with my London yoga instructor today. AWESOME. My hometown boy requesting private lessons from my new hometown yoga teacher. I lerv it.

Also, I almost passed out in yoga this afternoon. 105 degrees + 26 intense poses + no breakfast = bad idea. But I persevered, and only sat out for one of the pose repetitions. The rest of my Sunday afternoon was comprised of falling in love with I Love New York Season 2 (effing BRILLIANT) and takeout chinese and biscuits with the girls in my room. Lovely.

Also, today reminded me that I did not come to London for the weather. YEESH.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Situationists & Jack Daniels

For our contexts course this week, we were told to do a psycho-geographic assignment in line with the Situationist International creed. The SI was a group of Marxist artists in the late 50s/early 60s who aimed to create situations that forced the masses to realize their slavery to commodity, bring play back into everyday life, and generally re-imagine the modern world in a way that would appeal to human emotion and joy rather than blindly follow the dreary schedule of work-home-work-home. My kind of guys.

My project was inspired by Sophie Calle & Jenny Holzer's work, my two favorite artists who were post-Situationists that aimed to confront the reader to think about their environment, showing their works on a public scale rather than confining their work to galleries & museums. I posted these types of notes around Camden:

I loved doing this project, it was really enjoyable and made me able to connect to the reading much more than just reading in my room & trying to absorb it from there. And our professor loved everyone's responses to the assignment so he asked us to continue working on them and then we'll showcase them gallery-style somewhere on campus in a few months.

Then I went to work a few hours at the studio in Hackney, edited two chapters, and then headed back to Camden to meet up with Rebecca, Nate, Mark, & irish Claire for drinkin', which is appropriate in light of the lecture, I suppose, as most of the Situationists were massive alcoholics.
Nate, wondering whether to pay more attention to Rebecca's New Zealand bird thing or the bottle of Jack Daniels.

Claire & me. I think we may have scared her off with our American conversational skills.

"You don't talk about those sorts of things with your friends in Ireland, then?"
Wide-eyed head-shaking. "No, no, nevar...!"
And so our work of making these Northern European folk socially uncomfortable continues, one at a time.

It was a good night.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Harrods & Cheap Curry

Today was SUPERB. I set my alarm early to go to yoga & do homework, so instead I slept til 11 and took myself to Harrods. YES.

Stepping above ground from the Knightsbridge tube stop (even the TUBE stop sounds posh), throngs of people were crowded around the sub-par pre-Christmas Harrod's windows, tourists taking photos and eating Krispy Kremes (there is an enormous Krispy Kreme selection at Harrods, of all places.)

I glided through the cosmetics hall, food halls (lots of meat, blech), and perfumerie halls, & headed straight for the goods: Women's Fashion: Contemporary Designs. yeaahhhhhhhhh. You see, my dad just informed me that I had a forgotten bank account in California from Matilda royalties, and I joyously have a magical stash of money. It's not enormous, but it's just enough to blow on a couple of really expensive designer pieces, which is of course what came to mind as I was fondling Chloe dresses, Mossimo sweaters, and Calvin Klein shift dresses.

I thought ah, what the hell. May as well just TRY some things on... as long as I have this "free" money and all. So I tried on this gorgeous slate grey See by Chloe tube dress, a Sonia Rykiel pleated skirt, and a fantastic Vivienne Westwood (red label) vest top.

But alas, the Chloe dress was too big and they didn't have anything smaller. I tried it on with a Kenzo turtleneck underneath, which was apparently how it was shown in the Chloe lookbook, but wasn't such a fan of the combo. Better for my wallet, I suppose, because I would have TOTALLY bought that dress had it fit properly. Sigh. Would have been my first REAL designer item. The Sonie Rykiel skirt was underwhelming, and I lovvvvvvvved the Vivienne Westwood top but couldn't QUITE justify the price tag, especially when converted to dollars.

So, feeling quite virtuous, I promptly headed over to Laduree, THE hottest tea spot in London. It's a Parisian cafe that makes the best macaroons, some say, in the world: they invented the double-decker macaroon.

I ordered a Melange tea of rose, cinnamon, vanilla, and violet infusions, which was heavenly: fruity and creamy all at once. I also ordered 4 macaroons but was only able to eat 3. Two pistachio and one vanilla, and there are no words for their taste. Without a doubt the best macaroons I've ever had: perfectly soft, nutty/creamy interior, with a sugared wafer shell that melts most
democratically into the cream with each bite. Fantastic.

view from my most fortuitous wee corner table on the red velvet balcony:

And my personal favorite, the sign in the Patisserie halls:

Sorry, it's blurry.

hahahaha. So English. So perfect.

Then, Rebecca came over & we made the most delicious curry dinner EVAR, using an enormous bottle of curry R bought for ONLY 6p !!!!!!!!!!!! UNHEARD OF. look, proof:

More frosting converts:

Kev, Rebecca's boyfriend

Converting the world to buttercream, one human at a time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

bests & worsts

Worst seminar so far: if we're all going to slave (or sleep) through a 540-page tome by conrad, the professor BETTA have some good things to say about it, or to enlighten us as to why she did that to us. Well, neither were fulfilled, and so a bunch of us went to a lovely pub on a nearby corner and drank sweet sweet delicious Guinness for 5 hours, only moving to order fish & chips, and the worst attempt at mac & cheese ever.

Also, any country where the mass population begins drinking at 4pm and doesn't stop until close is allright by me. That's why all the pubs close here at 11pm, everyone's been getting pissed since the moment their work was finished. Happy hour extends wayyy past the American allotted 5-6pm slot.

And for those of you that find Guinness too bitter to enjoy, ask them to add a spot of blackcurrant to it. It's the most delicious drink I've ever had, I'm obsessed with it, I want to have its babies. Seriously. That good.

(google image search response to "guinness with blackcurrant." i do not know these people. i forgot to take a photo of it to pictorally enhance this blog entry myself.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

pedestrians are the old black

I'm beginning to think that pedestrians totally do NOT have the right of way here. It's never something I bothered to inquire about, as my Amerrogant worldview assumed that England would be the same in terms of driving/walking rules, but it does not seem so, my friends.

Even if it is a rule here, it's certainly not the rule of THUMB, as pedestrians certainly do not get the same tip of the politesse hat here as they do in the States. I've almost been run over like THREE TIMES, and that's been when I've looked both ways on a quiet side street, judged it safe to cross, and as I'm midway through the intersection, some insanely large garbage truck comes swerving into my crosswalk from around the corner and I'm faced with a frighteningly metallic future. I've either leaped backwards or ran forwards to avoid this future, and am subsequently met with angry stares or muted yelling faces as opposed to the Stateside norm of apologetic hand signals from the driver and mouthed sorry!s. I'll have to look this one up.

(Sure, the Big Ben in the distance looks nice, but that looming traffic signal in the foreground is VASTLY underappreciated.)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

too late.

It's the evenings where it hits me the worst.

I play my itunes playlist on shuffle as soon as I walk in the door -- quiet rooms make me uncomfortable -- and turn on the warm light of the Ikea lamp given to me by my bosses, and settle in to e-mail and web catch-up.
I'm surprised at how happy I am to come home to my small space that I disdainfully referred to as my "stalinist hovel" when i first moved in, but now it's growing on me. It's tiny, shabby, and quiet, but at least it's private and all my own.

It's where it turns around midnight that I should fall into bed sensibly, as I have to wake up around 7 for work, but I just can't bring myself to do it. Turning off the computer and the music means being alone with myself in bed, alone with my thoughts, my loneliness, my silence, my missing, the desolate slams of doors revolving around my room.

I have, though, been enjoying my days immensely. Work, class readings, seminars, and lately, friends have been keeping me busy. I had a wonderful weekend filled with yoga & pubs & new classmate friends & the Rugby World Cup (England lost, i barely watched, and incited heady gasps all around me when I asked what a scrim is. (It's a scrum, and apparently it's blasphemous to ask that kind of ridiculous question)), long talks over tea, and walks around Camden.

Today I slept in for the first time since I've been here, no alarm. I went to the UCL library and felt that thrilling rush I always feel when surrounded by shelves upon shelves of books. I even ran across two books, on two completely separate ends of the Literature section, authored by a professor I had at ASU. He taught a class I took on the bildungsroman in 20th century Irish & English literature, and it felt quite both thrilling & gratifying, in a way, that I should come across my own professor from my desert home in such a world-renowned library thousands of miles across the globe.

I have fun with my new friends, and it's a joy to be surrounded fellow English majors / literature lovers. I didn't have an enormous bond with my classmates, I found most of my friends at college outside of classes, so it feels so right & good to have that at last. But just because we're getting our Master's in English doesn't mean we can't use "poo" and "pube" in our Scrabble game. Then again, we were talking poetry & playing Scrabble on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

oh sinnerman, where you gonna run to?

Whoa, there. Sorry. Got a bit caught up in the LONDON WEEKEND, if y'know what I mean. No? You don't? Oh. Sorry, I forgot to fill you in. I have friends now! whee.

It was a very busy weekend, I think i was home for like negative 3 hours the whole time. Friday was student union pub, meeting all sorts of random drunken folk, which is always entertaining, especially when they're Irish, where you're sure to have ridiculous conversations about bestiality with philosphy/public policy Master's students. ha! and you thought pubs weren't educational.

Saturday was Topshop extravaganza with meg, where i purchased three items that have not left my side since. An ivory woolen capelet that keeps me warm in the non-heated warehouse studio where I work, & a stripey cardigan to give me that nautical flair for those three non-waterlogged minutes a day here, I almost bought a lovely 40s-inspired dress from the Kate Moss collection, but I have to work up the gumption to stop translating the price from pounds to dollars in my head before I can.

I also purchased a preeeeeetty hot pink party dress, which brings me to Saturday nite.

KOKO. The hot camdentown theatre-come-dance-club, a short walk from my place, with the largest disco ball in europe. FORSERIOUS! check it:

They don't play around with their disco balls here, apparently.

Sunday was market day. A couple of kids from my Master's program & I went to Brick Lane, Upmarket, and wandered around the pretty shops and world-food stalls. We ate: Caribbean salads, random Japanese tofu/fish/rice ball things, paella, and baklava. Mmm.

Why has America not gotten on the weekend market bandwagon yet? I cannot explain it. Beyond the odd farmer's market or two, we are SERIOUSLY lagging in this department. It's immensely enjoyable, it brings a crapload of people out on the weekends, and independent designers and vintage buyers are able to sell their wares to a hungry public. I don't see the problem here. It's genius.

Ok, off to read some more Henry James. On the menu tonite: Turn of the Screw, which is delightfully, if not rip-off-fully, Jane Eyre-esque, and In the Cage.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

you shall above all things be glad & young.

~e.e. cummings

meg & i in front of Dennis Sever's house, a brilliant, atmospheric home/art gallery that transports you back to 18th century London.

And I get gladder by the day. I've had a particularly good past few days. I'm both enjoying my solitude while also making the effort to befriend those around me.

About 10 classmates gathered after class to go grab a pint in the student union, and I gotta say, it felt so good to be around chatty Americans again. There was a very nice English guy in the bunch who came with, but it was fun to talk about American cities, college, LSATs, and debate the be
nefits of San Francisco vs. New York vs. Chicago vs. Boston with those who truly know these cities. It was fun. And I learned that other people hate this student complex, too! So I'm not alone. However, two exciting new prospects for brightening up my room/heart arrived today in the not-anymore-on-strike-Royal Mail:

Mommy #2 Diane sent me an enormous king-sized duvet to double over and put on top of my horrifically springy twin-sized mattress. And OH! what a difference it makes! I feel like Princess & the Pea on this thing. It's marvelous, and adds a good three feet of height to what USED TO BE my pathetic little bed. Whee!! Thank you diane!!!!!!!!! It took a few biomedical engineering students to help me rip off the packing tape on that thing, but lo! once I got thru! it was GOOD.

And in this delightful package from ms. kirsten, high school best friend extraordinaire, i received some of my favorite things in life:
-raibow chip buttercream frosting (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) (i can dip SALTINES into this and feel heaven. it makes anything delicious. ANYTHING. an ex-boyfriend once put it on sushi for me, to mix my two favorite foods, and IT WAS STILL DELICIOUS.)
-sour neon gummy worms!!!
-photos from home
-bookmark, because i do lots, and lots, and lots of reading here, and she knows that. : )

so, thank you, wonderful kirsten. you made my evening. my dessert arrived all the way from america. how lovely.

and in other good news, my thai flatmate's friends came over for dinner the other night and helped me solve my Cup Problem. You see, I mailed some house things over before i arrived, and in the box was some stacked urban outfitters drinking cups. Well, once I unpacked, I could NOT un-stick them from each other, so I've been goofily drinking out of a trombone-like stack of three cups in one for 3 weeks. Not anymore!

It may have taken a stove, a sink, soap, a saucepan, boiling & freezing water & some good ol' Thai determination, because these boys FINALLY separated my cups, albeit after about a half-hour of laboratory experimentation.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


I needed this weekend -- I'm finally starting to feel more at home here, and more excited to explore this massive new city o' mine, rather than wrapped into the folds of my tiny room, which is becoming less "Soviet bloc housing" and more "cozy homey" thanks to some mad decorating STYLEZ.

Friday: Beaudelaire discussions in class, Bond street exploratio
n, reading in Green Park (you have to pay a POUND FIFTY to sit in one of the lounge chairs scattered about in the parks here. I totally thought that was a lovely gift of the city, until an outstretched palm informed me otherwise), and meeting Meg at the Duke's Head pub in Putney for "a piss" with her co-workers.

Putney bridge:

Saturday, meg & i (see? she is my only friend here. all hail meg, everyone!!!) went to the tate modern, which was LOVERLY. we were a few days early for the louise bourgeois exhibit, but here is a view of one of her sculptures from the 4th floor window, st. paul's cathedral is the one cutting the imposing architectural figure across the river:

I could spend an entire day in the bookshop alone. Gah!

Sol LeWitt's geometry at the Tate:

MMMM. Greek food along the Thames. Think we ordered enough dishes? hummous, tzatziki, lentil puree, taramosalata, pita, mmmmm.

Then, I was invited by some family friends visiting London to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra play (of all things!) at the Royal Festival Hall. My first time seeing Bolero live, and waow! it gave me goosebumps. Nice job, Ravel. and CSO. 7th ROW! amazing. Also, Melissa wore a pink satin Prada clutch that I covettttttttttttttttttttt. I'm not usually into bags all that much, especially fancy brand-name bags, but omgomgomgomgomgomgomg. gimme the pretty.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mama Laundry

(view out my window this evening)

There are five washing machines in this student complex. Five washing machines for 400 students. And one of them is broken. I'm no math student (and even when I was, I wasn't....really. I was reading my book in my lap while 8th grade teacher droned on about parabolas and algorithms.), but that is just BAD PLANNING. And what does it all equal? Waiting an hour and a half just to be able to put my laundry in the &^()%$* washer. So many kids juanted into the room with their enormous bags full of disgusting clothes and stopped short, mouths agape, to see ten of us packed into this tiny, sweaty room, miserably waiting for a shot at the washing machine. They turned on their heels, muttering "Well, I guess I'll do my washing tomorrow then..."

Somehow, in all the hubbub, I became the expert at laundry. 18-year old freshmen boys are asking me,

"Right, you know what permanent press means?"

"What temperature should I do my shirts? 30C? 40C?" (Why they were asking me that question, I have no clue, as I'm STILL unclear about the celsius/fahrenheit formula (see above: math class))

"Can I wash these two things together?"

"What do you mean, I can't dry jeans??"

"What do you mean, I can't put this red jumper in with my white t-shirts?? WHY NOT? Come on, please??"

And as I'm trying to read Watching the English in the heat of the tumble dryers, an anthropological study on the personality of the English, an anthropological study is happening right before my very eyes. The Polish guy in line for the washer be
hind me notices that one of the washers isn't ticking the minutes down anymore, it's finished.
"Someone's clothes are ready!" he announces.

"Right, yeah, actually, I saw that, er, but, whoever it is isn't here..." mumbles a sweet young Brit.

Me: "Wait a second. This washer has been sitting here, unused, this whole time? And you knew that? I thought your stuff was in there. How come you didn't just put their stuff in a dryer?"

Brit boy: "I CAN'T DO THAT! It'd be...RUDE! I don't want to be...RUDE!" His friend nodded eagerly, concurring with the sentiment.

The English will go to painful lengths to avoid the discomfort of being impolite. To an American like me, this is outrageous. Just because one person hasn't thought to come back and fetch their wet laundry doesn't mean that the other 397 students should have to suffer through the remaining THREE WASHING MACHINES. I speak my mind, and everyone around me looks hesitant, and shifty-eyed. One boy ventures, "Well, when the beef is cooking..."

"What the hell does that mean?" I ask. "Consensus here is...?" cue shifty eyes.
"Allright, I'LL JUST DO IT." I shove the three t-shirts and few
pairs of fancy underwear into a dryer and allow the next person queued ahead of me to put their stuff in the machine. About a half hour later, the girl came back and apologized profusely for forgetting that her stuff was in the machine. She didn't seem to mind that I moved her items to the dryer, although that might have been the English in her, avoiding being impolite by showing me that she was peeved that I touched her laundry. I guess I'll never know.

In other news, I cooked an entire meal for myself tonight. Quite a feat for me, because, you know, that's what cereal is for!!! And boyfriends!! It was the first time I've ever made rice (granted, with my roommate's rice cooker, but still).
Behold: sweet & sour tofu & brown rice. mmm...

Scenes from skype: : )

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sunday in the Park

It was a study in Pointillism: the girl sitting on her petticoats (read: Anthropologie skirt), absently munching on her smoked salmon sandwich (yes, the other half from the Royal Albert Hall), a tiny dog happily bounding up to her and climbing all over her for bites of her sandwich. Sunday in the Park, indeed. However, the setting is in London, not Paris, and there wasn't any monkeys. That I saw, anyway.

I took myself all over London Sunday afternoon. I started in Notting Hill, looking for Hugh Grant but suspiciously, he was nowhere to be found. So, I found solace in vintage shops (found a fantastic hot pink '50s lacy top for only 15 pounds! A steal above all steals in this town.), and wandered around the Portobello Road, which on Sundays houses an antique market winding down its street. I almost bought a vintage cricket ball, but decided I didn't really want to lug it around all day.

Then I wandered down very rich streets and watched very posh, young families eating chips and burgers and salads in outdoor cafes (it was a gloriously sunny day, and warm too) until I found Hyde Park, and sat myself down for some people-watching, sandwich-eating, and book-reading. I sat there, reading my book until the air grew cold, the clouds dressed the sun, and orange leaves floated over my legs.

I brushed myself off and shopped a bit down Kensington High Street (too crowded on a Sunday afternoon to be too enjoyable, especially the Topshop there, which was far too cramped), meandered down smaller roads 'til I found the perfect French patisserie/boulangerie where I took away a mini vegetable quiche and exchanged pleasantries with the owner en francais, then popped down Gloucester Road, indulged in a strawberry cupcake from Hummingbird Bakery (GO THERE. If you live in London, GO THERE NOW. Cupcakes of all kinds, from m&m to caramel to strawberry and back again. ahhh!!!!), and made it to the V&A Museum for its last hour. I'll have to go back to be able to see the special exhibition on Lee Miller & couture fashion.

Thoroughly exhausted, I returned home and fixed myself a r
ather disgusting combination in description, but delicious in taste, of the easiest dinner imaginable: tofu & manchego cheese & jam atop a crumpet. SCRUMPTIOUS!! I shall teach you how NOT to cook in this blog. Start your microwaves!!

As today I wandered around Oxford Circus at the dizzying weekday hour of 5 - 6pm, I felt overwhelmed. Just when it seems like western Europe's great cities are being eaten up by consumerism & global brands, when there's a McDonald's and/or a Starbuck's sign within every eyeline, and I can't remember why I'm here and why there are
so many people and so many brand name shops after brand name shops, you turn a corner and see this:

And then you remember: Oh. I came here for this. Quiet pedestrian back alleys with pastel-colored walls, lanterns, and doors the colors of rainbows. You just have to look a little harder. I don't mind working for it.