Monday, November 29, 2010
As one of my all time favorite T.V. doctors, Leonard H. McCoy aka Bones of Star Trek, once stated, "The only constant in the universe is the bureaucratic mentality." And it is bureaucracy, and nothing more, that has prevented me from registering for my MFA spring semester classes. Apparently I have one of those annoying 'holds' on my account for never having presented a record of my vaccinations. An issue which would appear to be easily remedied, save for the fact that my doctor passed away a few years ago and I now live in England. Of course, the vaccinations themselves aren't really required. What is REALLY required is a doctor's signature on a pre-formatted piece of paper, something that no doctor in the States will give me. This leaves me with one option, getting something called a titer blood test, which will then prove that I have received the appropriate vaccinations. So it is off to my local GP to see if he/she can sort out this mess.
The inside of the St. John's Wood Hospital is more or less what one would expect of a medical facility, replete with icy cold receptionists and long stretches of sterile white walls that give one the impression they are walking in place. When I finally hit the reception desk for my 3:40 appointment it is 3:42 and I'm told to wait in an area that vaguely resembles Alistair Cook's Masterpiece Theater. Despite the gold studded, high-back leather chairs, this reception/study area is seriously wanting for reading material. Unlike the customary unstable piles of magazines that teeter precariously along the edges of doctor office coffee tables all across America, the St. John's Wood's reception area is a Zen Buddhist shrine, with nothing to distract oneself accept for a few pamphlets on Breast Cancer (and one on Chlamydia). The focal point of the room is a large LCD panel, which gives one the sense they are waiting for an oil change rather than a check-up (although I suppose some males over 50 may be waiting for something that could be described as an 'oil change'). The displays function is to notify patients of their turn with a singular beep. Given, however, the symphony of chirps and chimes originating from other parts of the hospital, eager patients can often be found rhythmically snapping their necks upwards in unison, the waiting room version of a "flash mob ."
Moments after having just read about the possible ramifications of having "altered skin texture and drawing in of the nipple" the LCD board beeps. Up next: Barbara Walters... and I'm being serious. Unfortunately, this Barbara, while short and old, doesn't appear to be the one who spends her days tut-tutting Whoopi and Joy's comments. Regardless, this is a promising start to my first visit for sure.
Forty minutes and a discrete self-breast-exam later the LCD board finally flashes my name and it is off to "Room One" to meet Dr. T. Sharma. When I open the door I am surprised to find the mousy doctor already inside waiting for me. Slight and nerdy looking, Dr. Sharma sits stooped over her desk, feverishly clicking her mouse, half-looking as if she were expecting her Dungeon and Dragons opponent rather than a patient.
"And you are Mr. Mazzenga?" Her Serenity inquires.
Socialized health care really is the way to go, I think, you get a medical and an existentialist examination all at once!
After confirming my identity I take a seat in the first of a long row of blue chairs positioned adjacent to Dr. Sharma's desk, the office feng shui decidedly more 'job interview' than 'doctor's office.'
"How may I help you?" Dr. Sharma says folding her hands across her flat chest.
To the point, I succinctly explain my graduate school vaccination dilemma and what test I require to resolve it.
"You sure that is all you need?" The existentialist portion of my exam apparently not over.
"Yes, I'm sure." I confidently replied.
Dr. Sharma then proceeds to tell me that such an exam may not be possible unless I have private insurance, as it hardly seemed fair for the taxpaying British citizens to have to pay for an exam that is required in the United States. I look down at my slightly olive skin and wonder if I'm in Arizona.
"OOOOOOOOOOKkkkkkkkk...." is all I can really verbalize.
After a mentally regrouping, I intimate that the EXAM isn't necessarily required, so much as her signature... a suggestion that would never fly in the US.
"You just need a letter from me?" Sharma's voice quizzically rising. The subtext being, "Why didn't you just say that in the first place?" Turning her attention to the blue glow of her monitor, she quickly types out a letter for me (although she used the hunt and peck method to type... horrible). A final forceful keystroke later, and without any examination or inquiry at all, I have my letter. Dr. Sharma, abandoning her keyboard for a moment, picks up a pen and casually ticks a spartan white pad in front of her. I can't help but wonder if she is the most indifferent doctor I have ever met or a true slayer of bureaucratic bullshit.
"And you said something about a cough?" the Doctor says, returning her attention to me.
I had. While this visit was largely about the vaccinations, I figured I might as well mention a lingering cough I have had for the better part of 2 years. I tell her how I had been to several doctors in the past but had yet to find a sufficient treatment for my ever present and constantly annoying cough.
"You say you've been to doctors in the past and that nothing has worked?" Sharma inquires without so much as flinching.
"Yes." I replied.
"Hmmm... well I don't see what I can do for you?"
Was she kidding? Weren't doctors supposed to help their patients? Wouldn't she revel in the medical mystery that was and unfortunately, still IS, my cough?
Dr. House T. Sharma is not.
"Oh OK," was all I could muster, as Dr. Sharma's pen "ticked" a piece of paper again.
And without so much as saying "AHHH" I was on my way home, feeling somewhat empty despite having received what I came for. I can't put a finger on it but something.... something was missing. Was it attention I desired? Have I come to enjoy the customary doctor/patient song and dance? The thrill of false promises and regiment of endless testing?
While frustrating, Dr. Sharma's approach to medicine is certainly honest if not brutally direct. What else should I expect? Afterall... She is a doctor, not a politician...
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Personally, the idea of hiking through Kenya hasn't the least bit of romantic appeal for me. It must for some though, as just the other day Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Whales proposed to his girlfriend of 8 years, Kate Middleton, sending all of England abuzz. The impending royal wedding has been quite the story and will most assuredly hold my Blighty brothers' attention over the next year. Interestingly enough, the English are not the only ones affected by the recent news. Jessica, my better half and Star Trek watching partner, is also completely smitten by the announcement. A quick check of recent Google searches on my computer might reveal the following words: Prince William, Ring, Royal, Wedding, Kate Middleton, When, Will, It, Be, Me...(maybe not exactly those words).
When questioned Jessica can't really explain what about the engagement makes her all "atwitter." In fact, I find the entire nation's infatuation with the Prince's relationship to be a bit confusing. I get that William was once the delight of squealing pre-teen and teen girls all over the world, Jessica herself having confessed to once having harbored a serious "tween crush." Handsome, rich, and with a title, William's appeal is understandable but C'MON... that had to have passed by now, right? Especially given that the Prince's once boyish good looks have faded considerably. His signature shiny blonde mop of hair, now looking unhealthy and thin, his "crown" now well-exposed. His face, once dainty like his mother's, is now long and horsey, more akin to his charmed-in-life but not-in-looks father, Charles. Even the very reality of royal weddings has grown old and tiresome over the past 30 years, with 3 of Queen Elizabeth's 4 children now divorced a fact highlighted by Princess Di's death. So why the crazed fascination?
In an attempt to understand my adopted country mates (and Jess), I will endeavor to analyze the relationships of several high profile "Royals":
1) Larry King
Relationship history: King has been married 8 times to 7 women.
Current relationship: Married...well kind of... more like "Hanging on."
Relationship fun facts: King has married not one but TWO Playboy Bunnies. He was also recently accused of having an affair with his WIFE'S SISTER.
"Sexiest" quote: "There is a reason I needed double hip replacement..." 
Analysis: Larry King's marriages make no sense to me. It isn't as though I don't understand why they fail, given the second fun fact that part should be pretty clear. It's more that I don't understand WHY THEY HAPPEN! Who in their right mind finds Larry King attractive? Larry King is essentially a human 'Turduken.' Recipe: take one old guy, stuff him with Burgess Meredith, then stuff him with Keith Richards, leave them out in the baking hot sun of the Sahara desert for 10 years and VOILA-- Larry King.
Fortunately, given King's wish to have his body cryogenically frozen, we'll have more time to study this phenomenon.
Relationship history: Prince has been married and divorced twice... TO WOMEN.
Current relationship: dating Bria Valente
Relationship fun facts: Prince is STRAIGHT (I know... blows the mind), Prince has also been romantically involved with Kim Basinger, Madonna, and Carmen Electra.
"Sexiest" quote: "I guess I must be dumb cause you got a pocket full of horses, Trojan and some of them used..."
Analysis: Given all of the hurdles Prince has had to overcome: a predilection for ass-less chaps, an outdated pampadour and tiny mustache combo, and his recent conversion to the Jehovah's Witnesses which he described as being, "like Morpheus and Neo in the Matrix," and it is astonishing that Prince has been able to hold down a relationship for any amount of time. Although, if he ever sang Raspberry Beret to me...
3) Rex Grossman
Relationship history: Rex has had many a public affair with Ms. Fumble and Ms. Interception along with a not-so-public relationship with Peyton Manning, whom he gifted Super Bowl XLIV to.
Current relationship: Married to Alison Miska for 5 years.
Relationship fun facts: It was Miska, not the media, who actually coined the terms "Good Rex" "Bad Rex" in regards to his ummm... performance.
"Sexiest" quote: "I'm not going to force anything."
Analysis: For those of you who may not know, Rex Grossman is an NFL quarterback, having played for the Bears, Texans, and now Washington Redskins. Rex, given that he is the world's worst quarterback, has either actually found true love or is married to a sadist. Recently (and inexplicably) Grossman was called into a game to replace the healthy future Hall of Famer, Donovan McNabb. On his FIRST play from scrimmage, with his team down by only one score with two minutes to play, "Wrecks" Grossman fumbles the ball which is then picked up and run back for a touchdown.... but I digress.
Relationship history: Have been together in some form or another since 1971
Current relationship: Broke up with Bad Company's frontman Paul Rodgers in 2009.
Relationship fun facts: Hairy chests, mustaches, and spandex jumpers were once cool and sexy, especially when combined... Seriously.
"Sexiest" Quote: "Fat bottomed girls you make the rockin' world go round."
Analysis: Queen had what one might call an 'open' marriage, sharing their rock anthems with hordes of admiring fans-- truly a match made in heaven.
In summation, here is what I've learned in regards to "Royal" relationships:1) Marry a Playboy Bunny once shame on you; marry another, and get invited to the Nickelodeon Awards. 2) If you are into door to door conversions and ass-less chaps you may just land a hottie or two. 3) There is still room in this world for the lovable loser...so, chin up Prince Harry. 4) The best royal relationships are those that involve 4 men.
 No one has ever overheard Larry say this but I'm SURE he has.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Outside of the feeble toilets and the cluttered tables at Starbucks, the transition from the US to the UK hasn't been too difficult. Being November, however, I am reminded that for the first time in my life I will have to make a serious adjustment and do without my all-time favorite holiday-- Thanksgiving. I do plan on putting together something of a Mocksgiving for posterity's sake, but there may be a chicken instead of a turkey, and the only football I'll be watching will not be of the American kind. That being said, I will endeavor to stay true to the spirit of the holiday by giving thanks for that which I have been graced with.
Things I am grateful for in 2010:
1) Children with British accents- If your "adult" British accent amplifies the impression of intelligence than a child with a British accent nearly doubles, NAY, TRIPLES the cuteness factor. Take the following conversation I overheard a young girl have with her mother on the bus this afternoon and imagine it with a cute little English accent:
"Mum? Mummy! Did you know that you can eat snow? I tried it once... on a bench. It was VERY cold and VERY white."
2) Liberty- No, not the kind of Liberty that hangs out with "Life" and "The Pursuit of Happiness"; rather I'm referring to the Liberty department store in London. Unlike the gaudy interior of its rival Harrod's, one will most assuredly NOT find a bronze sculpture of Princess Di and her Lover releasing a dove, nor will one find any "Egyptian" escalators. Liberty is a class act. Housed in a beautiful Tudor style building Liberty is what commercialism should be-- charming and subtle. If you only have a few days in London and need to scratch your shopping itch (I won't ask where that most likely occurs) check it out.
3) Harry Potter- Admittedly I've never read one word of JK Rowling's tales of the misguided little wizard BUT... I have seen the movies. And given that the movie is set to debut in one week I've officially caught the Harry Potter fever. It isn't so much the story, the acting, or the special effects that intrigue me, rather it is the enjoyment of what I call "Nerd culture." As a life long Star Trek fan, I've taken a lot of shit for wholeheartedly throwing myself into the fictional world of James T. Kirk and co. (my therapist suggests I use the term "fictional world"... just kidding... or am I?). So I love the fact that in another 7 days I can go to a movie theater and see a long queue of fellow nerds (although they are more closeted about their nerdom) rocking everything from Gryffindor scarves and wands, to lightening bolt scars. And if I ever need a reminder that Nerd culture is alive and well in London, I can just pop down to King's Cross station and actually see platform 9 and 3/4.
4) No Thanksgiving- Did you read that right? Did I just say I was THANKFUL for the lack of a Thanksgiving, my aforementioned "favorite holiday" of the year? Let me explain... While I will, in some ways, mourn the loss of a year without Thanksgiving, it also can be viewed as a tremendous blessing. For one thing, seeing as though the English have no concept of our holiday, November 1st signals the ALL OUT START of Xmas replete with white lights, ribbons, trees, wreaths etc. I figure if I can't celebrate Turkey Day, then I may as well squeeze another few weeks out of the Xmas season. Also, seeing as though my Thanksgiving won't actually be occupied by the holiday itself, I now have more time for exploring this beautiful world of ours. Which leads me too #5...
5) Half-Naked Women Who Fall In Love With White Bulls-- If you are unfamiliar with the story, legend has it that Zeus, being the horny little king of the gods he was, fell in love with a beautiful mortal named Europa. Zeus then disguised himself as a handsome white bull to attract Europa and eventually carried her off for a wild love making session (Which makes me wonder if Europa coined the mid-sex tradition of moaning "Oh god! Oh god!"). Anyway, Europa's progeny went on to spread all over the continent which we now call, you guessed it, Europe. So if not for that saucy little lady, I may not be able to enjoy my Thanksgiving in Madrid, where I shall surely think of her every morning as I dine on a breakfast of churros and hot chocolate.
As for my peeps in the States... Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the bird (and I don't mean that in the "Leda and the Swan" kind of way).
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
"Where are the holes they keep talking about? I didn't see any holes?"
"Mom, they are called Aubry holes and they are all over the place. They are labeled, just look down."
"It says right here in the guide that these might have been built by aliens."
"Dad, that is under the myths and legends section. They are trying to say that one of the MYTHS of Stonehenge is they were built by aliens."
The merging of life forces have intersected at the "Parent Visit."
For the last few months in London I have led my life relatively free of any taxing responsibilities. Sure, graduate school kept me busy but that was relatively enjoyable. Plus, outside of the distractions of London there wasn't much else standing in my way. This has all changed recently, however, as I've begun teaching on a more permanent basis at a London based school. The grading and prepping, while not overwhelming certainly makes it slightly more challenging to keep up with the ever increasing grad school workload. Top it off with a 10 day parent visit and I'm feeling as though I've criss-crossed one too many ley lines.
"Your father won't eat here. It is too gourmet."
"Mark, take a picture of this sidewalk. This is a good sidewalk. I want to show everyone back home."
Oh well, only 2 more weeks until Thanksgiving...in Madrid.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
First step: Buying Tickets
Unlike in the United States, where one can casually stroll into a movie theater, find one's seat of preference, and occupy it, the Brits have a bit more rigid system where seats are allocated beforehand upon purchase of one's ticket. While going against the Darwinian natural order of things, this obviously has a tremendous upside. You can purchase your ticket online well in advance, show up 15 minutes late after the commercials and previews have run their course, and still rest easy with the knowledge that you have a specific seat, hand-picked, waiting for you. It also eliminates the annoying behavior of some movie-goers who think they can reserve an entire row of seats for their tardy friends. There are, however, several drawbacks to this system. First, whether you buy your tickets in advance or at the ticket counter, you still have to wait in the same queue. This means, if you've purchased your tickets beforehand, you have to sit behind several people who need to decide, via a floor plan, where they'd like to sit-- a nauseating and time consuming process. Pre-allocated seats also do not take into account the plethora of variables that go into choosing a seat. Row F, Seat 5 may seem all well and good when previewed on a chart, but is less desirable when you discover that you're sitting behind an asthmatic Big and Tall model. Want to move? Too bad.
Second step: Concessions
Everyone knows a concession stand can make or break the entire movie-going experience. Gummy candy, chocolate treats, thermos-sized chalices of carbonated bliss, and let us not forget the bags and bags of golden buttery popcorn. For the most part, a good number of these treats are stocked in abundance at my local Odeon theater with only a few notable differences. To begin with, the concession counter sold Doritos. OK, I love Doritos, you love Doritos, it's not so strange to want a small bag of faux cheddar magic with your movie right? And it would be OK if they were small bags, but we're not talking small personalized bags for sale; rather the Odeon peddles full regulation-sized SACKS of Doritos. The kind that you accidentally plow through when you're either drunk or high. Still, while strange, I'm putting the Doritos in the "cool category." Other items that join the club are wine, beer, and Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Every concession stand has its dark side, however, and the Odeon's snack counter is no exception.
Upon my arrival, I had immediately noticed the absence of a familiar buttery bouqet. Sure there was rather healthy looking popcorn lying in the display case, but where did it come from? Where were the "popping" machines? I didn't have time to ponder this mystery for very long because quickly THE question was upon me, "What would you like, Sir?"
Instinct took over.
"A small popcorn please."
The interrogation continued, "Would you be liking the salty or sweet kind or perhaps a mix of both?"
"Salty?" I requested/guessed and timidly added, "Would you be able to put butter on that?"
While my attendant mentally fumbled with this question, I overheard the gentleman next to me ask, "Do you have any candy bars...like in America?" Those last three word said as though he were speaking to someone with a hearing impairment.
"We have a buttery toffee popcorn but you said you wanted salty," 'my guy' finally coming to. Clearly this was one of those rare instances wherein we were simultaneously speaking and not speaking the same language. Now it was my turn to fumble.
Next to me, I heard the man's wife chime in, "They call them CHOCOLATE BARS here, Dear."
"Oh," he corrected himself, "Do you have any CHOCOLATE BARS here...like in America."
"Salty is fine," I surrendered, trying to preserve what little dignity America had left.
And with that I took my non-buttered, bagged popcorn into the theater...
Third step: The Movie
You can't judge an entire country based on one cinema but screen 6 of the Odeon could be described as either an incredibly shitty movie theater or an amazing one... if it was in your friend's basement. I was, however, pleasantly surprised to be greeted by the soothing harmonies of violins and cellos instead of the customary Huey Lewis and the News song. The lights dim and the commercials roll . Much to my delight, I observed several reserved seating fiascos, as audience members who arrived early had understandably attempted to grab the more optimal seats, thus cementing in my mind America's movie theater seating dominance. After a few previews for movies I had no interest in seeing, it was time for the main attraction... until the lights went up.
"There is a problem with the film," I stated.
Very cutely Jess replied, "Perhaps this is how they do it here." And while I was 90% certain we were experiencing a technical glitch, I wouldn't have been surprised if she were right. One last chance for everyone to grab a pint before the movie starts?
Unfortunately, the usher's announcement confirmed my initial fears, we'd have to wait a little longer for our first movie in England.
10 minutes later and about 45 minutes after the movie's listed start time, the opening credits began to roll. The movie of choice, Ben Affleck's latest homage to Boston, "The Town." The cameras panned over Boston's beautiful skyline, Affleck slipped into a non-rhotic Southie accent, and I drifted into daydream land--- I was home again.
 When speaking in the past tense in German, the verb is placed at the end of the sentence. It is sort of confusing because you don't really know what the person is saying until the last word. British commercials are exactly the same. I have NO idea what they are about until the very last image of the company's logo pops up.
Monday, September 27, 2010
I love lattes.
I love those caffeinated delicacies. The intermingling of cream and coffee, like two Norwegians making violent love on black satin sheets, my own softcore coffee porn. And if lattes are my porn than Starbucks is my brothel, with over 17,000 locations in 49 countries across the world, including England.
For the most part, traveling east for 6 hours has very little effect on this homogenous chain coffeehouse. One finds the same strange naked mermaid logo, the same trendy music (listening to the Shaft theme song right now...Shut your mouth), and the same nonsensical sizes (how can a tall be a small?). Oh, and if you cared, the coffee tastes pretty much the same. The only major difference I can discern between a US Starbucks and a UK Starbucks is the clutter. British 'Bucks are unbelievably dirty. I know what you are thinking, here we go again. First he complained about the washing machine, then the toilet, and now this. Allow me, however, to explain myself. I used the adverb "unbelievably" because it is just that, beyond belief. I have found London to be one of the cleanest cities I have ever visited, especially in comparison to its American compatriots. The tube is so well kept it could be Joan Crawford's closet (NO WIRE HANGERS!). This is all the more impressive given the fact that there are no trash bins ANYWHERE in the entire underground network. The streets are also well-cared for. Every day I pass my local street sweeper, a charming man, who takes great pride in maintaining his little bit of sidewalk magic. Lastly, the Brits themselves are a remarkably sharp-looking people, so well-dressed I feel as though I'm walking onto the set of a movie every time I leave my flat (which given my recent Jonathan Rhys Meyer and Ewan McGregor sightings may actually be true). So why then, are their Starbucks so woefully cluttered?
1) The English prefer their coffee in mugs as opposed to disposable cups. This is no doubt a "high tea" holdover, which while more charming and environmentally friendly, is also more cumbersome.
2) The English have no concept of what it means to dispose of their coffee trash, leading to tables littered with khaki stained mugs, muffin wrappers, and straws.
All this leads me to my recent outrage. Here I sit in a quaint little Starbucks, dutifully working on a small hightop table. I've come well equipped today: laptop, books, legal pad, pens. I'm ready to write. It is the early afternoon and the place is hopping, only one small, hightop table is unoccupied and predictably, it is covered in trash. An attractive (and well-dressed) older couple (60's) has just strolled in and are looking for a place to sit. They spot the disheveled table adjacent to me and think Shakespearean thoughts: To sit or not to sit, that is the question. I assume their daily constitution must have been exceptionally tiring, as they elect to make themselves at home amongst the trash. Eventually the woman begins tidying up. Her one hand sweeps away the golden crumbs, the remnants of some long forgotten stale pastry while the other scoops up the orphaned mugs. But what to do with the trash?
Outrage in 3...2...1
She puts it on my TABLE! With my defenses down, she casually slid the third party rubbish onto the ledge of my table. My poor, humble work space, a target area no larger than the size of the one that destroyed the Death Star and she bullseye-d it. Oddly enough, this isn't the first time this has happened to me while in London. A few weeks in to my stay, while sitting with friends at a pub, the same thing happened-- our table having become the place for other people's refuse. I want to give some lengthy discourse about how this behavior is political in its origins: Capitalist versus Socialist tendencies: The Coffeehouse, but I'm not sure if it would be true. The entire phenomenon is like Popeye's love for Olive Oyl -- simply inexplicable (although in truth this may not be an apt analogy as Popeye was a sailor and God knows those randy sailors will take whatever they can get).
Moral of the story:
Next time you are looking for coffee porn, bring protection.
Monday, September 20, 2010
If you can't picture it, allow me.
After having finished using the facilities, I must first heartily push down on a lever, which more closely resembles in both its mass and design an academy award. The torque required to pull Oscar down is astonishing and bares little resemblance to the dainty taps its American cousins receive. Finally, however, after much struggle the lever genuflects and the deluge commences. What initially begins as a low rumble, slowly builds to a fervor: Pipes rattle, the toilet lid coyly flips, and gallons of rushing water pour forth mercilessly drowning Myrtle the Turd-le, who, in the face of the unrelenting tide, naturally acquiesces. WOOOSH! SLUSH! CRACK! The surging waves of water artfully blend together, a spectacle worthy of the Bellagio.
At last a familiar percolating gurgle tells me the deed is done. But what's this? Like Narcissus I peer over the porcelain lip and stare hypnotically into the shallow waters. Could it be? It couldn't possibly...
Much to my surprise and dismay Myrtle sits with a certain aplomb, a toy treasure chest resting at the bottom of my fish bowl-- taunting me. I crank the Bessemer processed lever several more exhausting times but the strained loo responds indifferently, she apparently doesn't do curtain calls.
Resigned to my fate, I begrudgingly tip my cap, close the lid, and sing "God Bless America" for the next half hour.
Monday, September 13, 2010
My preparation for moving to London largely consisted of packing one suitcase (the night before) and reading copious amounts of guide book literature. While some travel books were a bit dry, many of them were quite helpful and contained similar "Do this not that" lists, created to help one avoid expensive or disappointing tourist traps.
One month in, having accumulated a significant mass of experiences already, I thought I would put my own spin on the London "Do this not that" guide, one I will continue to update throughout the year.
1) Avoid the London Eye.
Given the tremendously long queues and the inflated price (17 pounds) it is a lot of aggravation for the somewhat boring views of the London skyline. Instead take a hike up to any of London's more pleasing summits. Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath offer spectacular views of the city at the right price-- free.
2) Skip the Notting Hill Carnival.
Don't let the Notting Hill name fool you, you definitely won't find Hugh Grant here (unless he is on one of his late night cruises for sexual chocolate). Billed as Europe's largest street fair, the Notting Hill Carnival is exceptionally loud and somewhat dirty, while the uninspired floats and dancing that mark the parade aren't quite up to the likes of Bourbon Street. The food vendors do get a thumbs up but you can only savor the curried goat for so long before it starts getting old. Try the Thames Festival instead. Efficiently organized, family friendly, with a terrific ambience, the Thames Festival is a fantastically laid back celebration. Dine on the Southwark bridge as boats parade by or just show up for the late night fireworks on the river.
3) Don't pay to enter St. Paul's cathedral.
Instead, see Wren's baroque masterpiece for free by attending one of the daily Evensong services. The service lasts for one hour** and features sublime choir singing. Get there early and sit in the choir of the church under the same glittering mosaics that Di and Charles were married under.
The same Evensong services are held in Westminster Abbey (also free).
** Although if you linger in the back of the church you can leave whenever you like and not get stuck next to a flatulent Spanish couple. Guess that is why they call them Pews! insert rimshot)
4) Take it to GO.
Most cafes and lunch shops offer you the option of dining in or take away service. Take away is always significantly cheaper, being sometimes a pound less per item (Even Starbucks has this crazy policy. A chocolate chip cookie on a plate will cost you 2.10 whereas it is 1.60 in a bag). Take your food instead to one of the many perfectly manicured parks London has to offer.
5) Make it a Pub not a Bar.
Probably not a distinction you often times make, yet there is a significant difference between pub and bar culture. Pub food, atmosphere, and service are all very charming and decidedly more British in their sensibilities. Bars, however, are really just that-- bars, replete with swankily dressed hipsters cruising for fresh meat. How can you tell the difference? It's like porn, you'll know it when you see it.
6) Laptop over License.
Living in London but are missing the latest episodes of the "Bachelor Pad"? Ditch the pricey television license you're required to purchase to simply watch TV (sans cable!). Instead, download hotspot shield for your laptop. This free program masks your IP address allowing you to access American websites like Hulu and Abc.com (Not that I would ever do such a thing...). Another option is Slingbox. Have a parent or friend at home with an extra TV? If you answered yes, slingbox might be for you. The downside is the one time $200 fee but on the upside, it allows you to access all of your co-conspirator's cable programs. If they have DVR you can even record programs and watch them the next day.
"I think I'll go with this 'cuz this is where it's at." -- Q-Tip
To be continued...
Friday, September 10, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Hob (n)- The stovetop of choice in Tolkien's Shire.
David Beckham (v)- to look good in one’s underwear.
Gazunked (v) - F#%!D!
Platform 9 and 3/4 (prop. n.)- where Prince Harry disappears to after he is photographed wearing a Nazi Halloween costume.
*Queue (v)- When John Delancey waits in line.
Windscreen (n)- the noise one makes with their mouth when trying to disguise a fart.
Jumper (n)- a suicidal sweater.
Barmy (prop. n.)- a purple dinosaur who is OUT OF HIS MIND!
Biggie (n)- An iconic rapper’s poo.
**Tickety-boo (n)- when life is going well for Julie Andrews.
*See also- Star Trek nerd
** In the United States, however, saying Tickety-boo is a sure fire way of alerting someone that something is seriously, seriously, wrong