My time in London is about halfway done, so I thought I’d treat you all to a couple of top tens I’ve discovered thus far—ten awesome photographs I took, and a list of ten things about this place that can’t ever be captured in a photograph.
Now. The ten that cannot be captured in any photograph (that we know of):
No. 10—The amazing accent that every born-and-bred East Londoner possesses
No. 9—The way this city smells and sounds. Go to a different part, and they change like clean underwear
No. 8—The entire Tube system
No. 7—I’ve heard at least two dozen foreign languages in the three days I’ve been here
No. 6—The food is cheap (if you’re smart about it), plentiful (duh, it is London), and international as hell (Turkish, Chinese, Indian, &c, &c)
No. 5—Londoners will assume you’re a Londoner until you open your mouth, or stand like a total goober in the midst of heavy foot traffic
No. 4—The genres and styles of the music you will hear here is truly mindboggling
No. 3—If you’re at least five-nine some Tube trainsets will make you feel like a fairytale giant
No. 2—If there ever was a 25/8 city, this is one of them
No. 1—If you come, you won’t want to leave. If you come and get a job, you absolutely will not leave
And this is just after three days. I shudder (with excitement) to think of what tomorrow will bring to by doorstep.
Bring it, you dirty bird.
So. I’ve been in the UK for less than seventy-two hours, and let me say that I am absolutely infatuated with this place, almost to the point that, if it were possible to stalk a sovereign nation, I think I’d be guilty of that by this point. In fact…
Allow me to fill you in.
I landed at Heathrow around eight on Sunday morning, at the ass end of a redeye but ready to take on all comers. I had done tons of research, so I’m moving through the Tube and its associated stations like a true Londoner, avoiding the slower travelers and trying not to run into anybody with my sweaty one. I get to my hostel and check in, and immediately headed north to Preston to meet my friend, whom I haven’t seen since July, the one I spoke of in the last post. I get there, we have lunch and catch up with another friend of ours, we get snackified, and we got ready for a night of karaoke, just like we used to in the old country. At his apartment I met one of his roomies, a chill guy that studied in Japan at the same time as we did, and a Japanese exchange student that goes to his university—and it was epic. We stayed up till probably four-thirty talking and singing, doing it big for so, so little, really. Unfortunately everybody else had to be responsible students and go to class the next day, so afterward my friend came back to his apartment (to wake me around noonish) and we had lunch, and said goodbye… for now. I mean, I came across the pond so it’s only right for him to return the favor, isn’t it?
Of course it is. But let’s let him mull that decision over for a while.
So I come back to London. And it’s St. Patrick’s Day. Really, I wasn’t looking for anything but the tattoo parlor I had found in the States, but something else found me instead.
An equation would sum my night up nicely—
Failing to get tatted + stumbling into a bar to ask directions + the drinks you see in my profile pic X 5 + a drunken cab ride to Islington + The Quays + a bit o’ spliff + a bit o’ sniff – the contents of my stomach X 2 + a night ride on a night bus – a sense of direction + London Bridge + the best lamb wrap-kebab thing I’ve ever eaten + passing out at six thirty in the morning -75 pounds =
The best St. Paddy’s Day I will ever have. No bullshit.
And that was only yesterday.
Today I spent most of the day exploring the fantastic Tube.
The Tube rocks my pants off. So easy to use, the announcements are all in a charming British accent, and it can get you almost anywhere in London in a reasonable amount of time.
I also rode a double-decker bus out to North London, through Hackney and Waltham Forest.
These buses also rock my pants off. So easy to use, the announcements are all in a charming British accent, and they will get you anywhere in London the Tube doesn’t service.
London is fast as hell. London is also filthy as hell—certain parts of it, anyway. But that’s why I came here. As long as I don’t open my mouth everyone assumes I’m just another Londoner going about his business.
And that’s what I like.
I know there are no pictures. But there’s a post for that forthcoming.
So Keep Calm and Settle Your Happy Asses Down, okay? Okay.
I suppose it’s time to let you people in on the plan, the scheme, the plot—I’m spending Spring Break in The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Like, next week Spring Break.
And, though it may appear to be otherwise, this isn’t some random lark I’ve chosen to undertake—far from it. This is the result of a promise I made almost a year ago, a promise I made to someone very important to me, and a promise I intend to fulfill.
But still, it’s effin’ London town, man. To say I’m excited is an understatement of epic proportions.
But the reasoning behind this post isn’t to expound on the bangin’ ass time I’ll have in the UK; there’ll be posts aplenty for that. No, this time I’m thinking of what promises actually are, and what they really mean.
Where I come from, we have a saying: A man’s only as good as his balls and his word. It’s a tenet I live by, as should we all—-you make a promise, you stick to it. But like so many others the possibility of the empty promise seems to make people so uncomfortable with the whole concept and prospect of oath-making. And, again like so many others, I’ve made more than enough of those in my life.
Language is the primary vehicle through which we communicate or thoughts, our feelings, our wants, desires, and grievances. Words themselves mean nothing (subjectively they mean nothing) until we give them agency, a voice—then they become something much more concrete and real, for better and for worse. We forget this. And it’s when you unthinkingly offer something of yourself to another with the intent of making good on a promise you made that the brambles get thicker, and it isn’t a simple matter of rolling down your pant legs and slogging.
Promises aren’t beholden to the same restrictions under which we live our fast-paced, coffee-driven, distraction-filled existences; once something has been said, heard, and processed by the brain it can’t be taken back, no matter how many times one states the contrary. And it’s more than just thinking before you speak, too. Every situation is different, and gauging one from another is a notoriously pointless task—put simply, you’d make promises to your mother that you wouldn’t make to your best buddy and vice versa, and these differing relational dynamics determine how likely you are to keep that half-assed promise you made.
So there’s that.
I’ve been convening with my friends, and we’ve come up with a list.
16 ways one should never be FUBARed:
One should never be FUBARed by walking.
One should never be FUBARed after thinking anything.
One should never be FUBARed by riding in or on, or getting into, out of, or off of any two-, four-, or other-number-wheeled vehicle or machine.
One should never be FUBARed by phone call, or text. You’ll get at least an honorable mention for a Darwin Award if you are.
One should never be FUBARed by smoking. It looks too cool.
One should never be FUBARed by stationary object, such as a mountain, or the trees on said mountain.
One should never be FUBARed after watching a bad-ass movie they just had to live in real life.
One should never be FUBARed after a night on the town—at least, not in a grievous-bodily-harm kind of way.
One should never be FUBARed while minding their own damn business.
No one should ever be FUBARed by their employer.
One should never be FUBARed after honestly speaking their mind.
One should never get FUBARed while on vacation—again, with regard to grievous bodily harm.
One should never be FUBARed by mythical creature, demon, extraterrestrial, or any other other-worldly being. (But if you did, it would be pretty cool and everybody would remember the hell out of you.)
One should never be FUBARed while holding onto any regret, whatsoever.
One should never be FUBARed at the same time as a hundred million others. It’s the primary reason why the Apocalypse will suck.
Finally, and most importantly, one should never be FUBARed and not learn something from it.