Friday, July 27, 2012

Drinking Tea With The Taste of the Thames

Everything I know about Great Britain comes from the BBC. Specifically, Ab Fab.

It's kind of like everyone outside of the US thinking American's all live in New York or Los Angeles and are cowboys who carry guns and talk like Clint Eastwood.

When we were in London last fall I saw everything through the prism of Ab Fab, expecting at any second that Eddie and Pats would tumble out of a cab in front of me - a bottle of voddy in one hand and a cigarette in the other - yelling, 'Sweetie! Dahling! Fashion, fashion, fashion!'

Sadly, the only fashion I saw was a lot of shorts with pantyhose (not tights, mind you), and those unfortunate bowler hats. The male hotel employees still wear them, giving them a sinister, A Clockwork Orange vibe. Unsettling for sure.
Since we had only one day and night in London before leaving for Paris, I forced my pal Gabriel to hit the ground running with me to Westminster Abbey. We'd been flying all night and were exhausted from little sleep, but I had planned a full agenda with the first stop being Poets' Corner at the Abbey.

Gabriel at Westminster Abbey.

Did you know Chaucer is buried at Westminster Abbey? Chaucer. I'm not even a big Canterbury Tales fan, but it's not often you come across the tomb of perhaps the most famous English poet (outside of Shakespeare of course) who's Middle English poem makes your native tongue read like a foreign language.

Besides that, he is OLD. As in born in 1340-something old. 

I didn't even know they had dead bodies back then, let alone do anything useful with them.

And not just Chaucer, but Charles Dickens, Browning (read this), Kipling (and this), Tennyson, all buried at Westminster under these ordinary slabs of stone. You just walk right over them on your way to the next chapel.

Westminster Abbey is a fascinating place, and I could have spent days there hearing the same tour over and over it was so rich with ceremonial history and bizarre and violent deaths.

Virgins roasted on gridirons. Beheadings. Child murders.

I could care less about dead Royals, but who doesn't love tales of family in-fighting and power thirsty relatives. It all seems so... dramatic.

Afterward, Gabriel and I drank coffee from a vendor outside of Buckingham Palace and I considered how fortunate I am to be in no immediate danger of being beheaded. 

Later that afternoon we finally caught up with our partners who were coming from a meeting somewhere in Great Britain. I hadn't seen Ray in a week because of the meeting, and the first I saw him in London I was crossing a street near Buckingham Palace. We proceeded to kiss (and surely annoy) everyone around us on Piccadilly. But it was awesome, finally seeing each other again and suddenly in another country, on another continent.

The four of us headed toward the London Eye, where we rode the city's famous Ferris wheel and took a sightseeing boat tour down the Thames.

Our tour guide was a hilariously snarky girl who colorfully brought all of the sights to life.

"Look everyone, here is London Bridge. It's not that great, is it? But up ahead is Tower Bridge, which you will be much more impressed by!"

London Bridge - Despite the nursery rhyme, not that impressive.

Tower Bridge - Way more impressive...

even from underneath.

We were cruising down the Thames at sunset, making for an accidental romantic tour of London. And yet not once did I get tired of saying, 'Look kids, Big Ben. Parliament!'

So perfectly lit and gorgeous it looks almost fake. No Instagram required.

What's funny about when I first saw Parliament and the clock tower was that I didn't recognize it as the London icon. Gabriel and I were on back side by Westminster Abbey, and when I got out of the cab he said, 'Turn around. There's Big Ben.'

I guess it's Big Ben if you say so, just take my picture.

From this angle I thought it sort of looked like Big Ben, but not exactly right. Hmm, something is missing...

Gabriel had been to London several times, but yet I was standing there in the street saying, 'I dunno Gabriel, I think you're wrong.'

All of the photos I'd seen (and episodes of Ab Fab) always showed it beside the Thames. When we crossed over the river and I saw it for the first time from that angle it was immediately recognizable.

Oh my gosh you guys, look! It's Big Ben!

I think they all would have punched me if it weren't so hilarious.

The next morning we had breakfast at our hotel in the St. Pancras Renaissance.

English breakfast.

This is significant because it's steps from the St. Pancras International train stop where tens of thousands of Olympians and fans will be traveling between Olympic Park and central London. The Olympic rings were already up when we were there.

Anyway, I have to go, Opening Ceremonies start soon.

Happy London 2012 Olympics everyone.


I stole this headline from Morrisey's fantastic song Come Back To Camden. Here's the mp3.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

The One Where I Keep My Word Against My Better Judgement

Remember last spring when I was going to lie to my dad about my old scooter he wanted? I was even going to pay you to buy it, or possibly cut the breakline so he could have it but not ride it?

I was desperate, remember, because I was worried he'd crash and I'd never forgive myself?

Well, I reluctantly kept my word. But only because he was so excited to tool around on my little scooter that I'd have been a complete jerkface if I didn't give it to him.

While I was worrying my poor ol' dad was going to crash to his death on Stella, Ray was giving me dirty looks because he had to hoist the thing into the back of a GMC Sonoma. 

But as fortunate would have it, he only got to ride Stella a few times before her 10-year-old battery died.

Hallelujah. My mom and I were spared the worry of him speeding through south Marion, helmetless, on a purple scooter. Summer 2011!

Then Big Al came into the picture.

"Big Al is about my size, no bigger," my dad told me.

And Big Al works on motorcycles, so my dad hoisted Stella back into the Sonoma and took her to get a new battery.

She runs like a dream again. The automatic start even works now, which is a luxury I never had with Stella.

My worry not withstanding, I have to admit it was pretty fun this weekend seeing Stella back in riding shape again. She's got some fire in her still, and it does seem that the quiet streets of my parents' neighborhood is a great home for her.

Thankfully, even fixed, my dad rarely rides her, and mostly just around the neighborhood to show off. I think he likes having it more than he likes riding it.

Which is just fine by me. Summer 2012.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Like A Hotel, Only Whiter

Everything in Ray's apartment is white. The walls. The sheets. The carpet. Even the photographs are black and white.

And it's neat. Insanely neat. As in, 'I-might-be-a-killer' or 'I-might-have-been-in-the-military' neat.

So naturally I look forward to staying at his place so I can muck it up. It's like staying at The Westin - crisp white sheets, view of downtown - only without the sales pitch channel touting the White Tea shampoo.

I walk in, toss my bag on the counter, kick my shoes off and proceed to make myself at home. And just like at a hotel, I know that miraculously my belongings will somehow end up neat and orderly by the time I leave.

We call his place The Raymada.

For effect, he'll sometimes leave hotel soaps on the bathroom counter for me. There is even turn-down service, ie, someone's gotta make the bed and that someone is often Ray. (The staff at The Raymada is superb.)

I'm a "preferred guest" I like to think, racking up double points for making caffeine runs to Coffee Emporium. (Hey, it's not every hotel guest that brings back coffee for the staff from all the way across the street.)

But it's even better when he goes to Coffee Emporium because usually a) I'm still asleep and b) he'll pick up a Sunday New York Times too. When I wake up they are both waiting for me on the frosted glass coffee table. (Of course it's frosted glass. It really is like a hotel, I'm not making this up.)

Last time this happened - omg, the New York Times Book Review and a soy latté, hooray! - I nearly peed my pants with excitement. Which really only adds to the urban experience, I think.

Often times I will bring over my laundry when I run out of clean underwear, you know, just to make sure his washer and dryer are functioning properly. Part of earning my "points" I feel: Equipment checks.

The only difference between his place and an actual hotel is that I always run out of hot water at the Raymada. (I would write a strongly worded Post-It note to the staff about this problem but I can never find anything to write on, that's how neat and put away everything is.)

This hot water issue would never happen at the real Westin. But that's because the people at the Westin don't turn their dishwasher on as soon as I'm getting into the shower to freeze me to death.

Nice try, Ray. But my reservation is for the entire weekend and I am not leaving.


Caveat: I originally wrote this when Ray and I first started dating. It has languished in my drafts folder for two years with another 182 drafts. I'm posting it now because as of Thursday I will no longer be earning points at the Raymada. I'm really going to miss the tiny hotel shampoos.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer To-Do

  • Drive-in movie CHECK
  • Plan a giant, full-swing picnic
  • Introduce my friends to all of my other friends (because they should all be friends too) (see picnic)
  • Read two books
  • Ride Codzilla, "a high speed thrill ride" (it goes 40 mph)
  • Find a house
  • Ride my bike more (when not scorching hot)
  • Walk more (when not scorching hot)
  • Sit in parks more (when not scorching hot)
  • Learn to speak fluent Spanish

Thursday, July 12, 2012

House Hunters

Some of the colorful ways Ray has described the houses we've gone through: 

"What this house needs is an oily rag and a match."

"The door looks like the entrance to Liberace's house of crap."

"Oh, the basement has potential all right... for a fire."

"It looks like the Easter Bunny took a pastel dump in here."

"Wow, this is old knob and tube wiring. That's really cool... except we're not buying this place now."

Thus far the only things we've really liked are cat doors and a few porches. So the house hunting continues. Let's just say I'm eating my feelings a lot of Yagoot.