The Lighter Side v1.0

So I just wrote a real serious blog post which probably bored some of you, so there is some silly stuff that made me laugh.

All atheists are like this.  They hate Christmas.  Yep.

New York Times article about why we like spicy food.

This is the new duvet cover I just bought for my apartment.  Best ever?  I think so.



I laughed for 20 minutes.

I laughed for 21 minutes.

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Patriotism Isn’t Enough

Per usual, I was walking around London a bit yesterday and came across this statue right outside of the Charing Cross tube station.  It was a statue of Edith Cavell who was a nurse and spy during World War I.  She helped 200+ Allied soldiers escape from a Germany occupied Belgium.  She was caught by the German military and imprisoned for ten weeks; two of which were spent in solitary confinement.  The British government stated there was nothing they could do for Ms. Cavell and that it would more than likely “go hard” for her.  I can’t help wonder if there would have been more urgency to recuse her if she was a man.  She was executed in 1915 at the age of forty-nine.  The quote on her statue at St. Martin’s place (which is attributed to her) reads:

This insight got me thinking, as reading often does, about something a bit passe in the news.  In the vein of patriotism and hatred I began thinking about the debate over building a Muslim community center four blocks from Ground Zero in Manhattan, the site of the September 11th terrorist attacks. 

It is at this point that I give you the opportunity to stop reading if you were expecting something funny.

What we know is that what is being proposed is not a mosque.  It is a community center.  It’s that thing that needs saving in 1980’s movies about skiing.  It is a community center, not a mosque. 

And what’s more, it doesn’t matter if it’s a mosque or not.  Secondly, we know that Muslims and the religion of Islam are, at its core, peaceful.  Islam means “to submit” and a Muslim is “one who submits”.  People will say that there are violent passages in the Koran, often citing the word jihad which means “the struggle”.  The three meanings of the word are the struggle to keep faith, the struggle to improve Muslim society and the struggle in a holy war.  Ninety-nine percent of Muslims are the first two.  People will also cite attacks on the U.S.S. Cole, the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1994 as well as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  These are all extremists and minorities within their faith.

The people who perpetrated the atrocities against Christians, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists alike on September 11th were psychopaths before they were religious figures.  When someone is possessed by a psychosis and fervor caused by neglect, alienation, and influence from other neglected, alienated psychopaths, the result can never be good.

Another thing we know is that the First Amendment in the Constitution protects individuals in practicing any form of religion, have freedom of speech, the freedom to express grievances to the government, a free press and the freedom to assemble peacefully in public, among other things.  The first one is at stake here, which was one of the founding principles for the United States.  What the whole controversy about the community center illuminates is that many people only want this right to extend to people practicing mainstream religions within the US; preferably Christianity.

The core of the problem is how extremist Islam is being equated with Islam.  The only thing these two sects of Islam share is religious text and a lifestyle that is different from a typical Westerner.  By using the two sects as interchangeable, a simple, flawed logic arises, “9/11 was an act of evil and was perpetrated by Muslims.  Muslims are evil and hate America.  Muslims want to build a shrine to evil near the result of that act of evil.”

This supposition that Muslim extremists are the same as your average Muslim utilizes a dangerous set of generalities.  These extremists responsible for 9/11 are no more true Muslims than Timothy McVeigh was true Catholic.  He was indeed raised as a Catholic, but it would be incredibly unjust if there was a wave of backlash against Catholics in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing.  And there wouldn’t be any objections to building a Catholic church or a YMCA within four blocks of its memorial.  Rightfully indignant Catholics would be justly entitled to point out that his actions wantonly violated any and all tenets of Christian thought to a point that he could no longer he considered a member of that community.  So it is with the September 11th hijackers.  

Does the name Scott Roeder resonate with anyone?  He was the abortion extremist who assassinated Dr. George Tiller, an abortion doctor from Wichita, Kansas, while he was at church with his family on May 31st, 2009.   Roeder, who was caught three hours after committing the murder, ultimately confessed and justified his actions by claiming, “preborn children’s lives were in imminent danger.”  Roeder was a member of the “Army of God” which is a Christian terrorist anti-abortion group which advocates the murder of doctors who perform abortions.  No one would dare to claim that because Roeder identifies himself as Christian that all Christians were associated with his cold-blooded murder.

There are several things conclusions that can be drawn from this white, Christian exceptionalism.  The first conclusion is the perpetual divisiveness of race.  Muslims are often people with darker skin than the white majority of the US.  Everyone knows that darker skin has never gone over well in the United States despite what people might say about living in a post-racial world.  The fact of the matter is that people with darker skin tend to get blamed first.  There have been acts of non-Muslim terrorism committed in the United States before and after the attacks no the World Trade Center, yet all we hear is the insult and insensitivity of building a Muslim community center within four blocks of Ground Zero.  It’s not as if the people are building the center thinking, “Well, I know a bunch of my buddies totally knocked these huge literal and figurative buildings down, but it’s within my rights to build this here so I will as a giant middle finger to the country who we secretly resent despite living here by our own volition and pay taxes to do so.  Did I mention we pay taxes?”

The second conclusion is that we needed someone to blame because we were angry, scared, and embarrassed.  Imagine you’re a staggering giant hit in the nose by Jack after climbing your beanstalk and knocking a whole bunch of shit around in your kitchen.  It doesn’t matter who stole the golden goose, you’re going to tear the town apart looking for Jack because someone screwed with you.  You think to yourself, “Well the townspeople know Jack and they share a town with him, so they must be just as guilty.  Let’s get to stomping.”

The United States has some learning to do.  We don’t understand Islam because it is not our own experience and when we experience Islam it is limited, anecdotal and as an “other”.  It is something foreign and, as a result, frightening.  Islam takes root as a religion with discipline as its linchpin.  Submission, faith, discipline and routine characterize Islam and can only take hold when there is a culture that encourages this religious rigor.  For Islam, it is the reciprocity of culture and religion that allows it to be successful,  and, among other characteristics, peaceful.  But, as we know, there are those who stray from the original intent of the word.  Just as with all religions, there are those who violate the will of Allah by engaging in violent acts.  This is the way it is in the East.

There is no reciprocity in the West.  The US has been called a “Christian nation” on several occasions.  As of 2009, 78% of Americans claim to be Christians.  However, the religious life of American Christians is at odds with the culture that they live in.  The reason people are “American Christians” and not “Christian Americans” because people are Americans first and Christians second.  I also don’t blame them.  Christianity is an amazing religion of forgiveness, peace, tolerance, universalism, welfare and humility.  American culture judges the different, promotes the individual, blames the poor, promotes excesses and indulgences, all within the framework of white, Christian exceptionalism.  This is why “true” Christianity is very difficult to find because there is very little true reciprocity between Christianity and culture.  Because culture itself will ignore the real duties of The Bible.  One in every sixteen verses in The Bible mentions helping the poor and forfeiting one’s wealth to live simply.  Jesus said “Judge not, lest ye be judged” yet throw stones while sinning on a regular basis.  There are always those who stray from the word.  This is the way it is in the West.

What we have in this debate about the Muslim community center is the blatant product of fear, racism and exceptionalism.  What we can take away from this whole debate is that we’re still frightened, we’re still angry and we’re unsure what Islam means in the West.  The healing process most certainly involves flag waving and a realization that our country truly is great and is as a beacon to the rest of the world as righteous, fair and unwavering in our protection of what we claim to value most:  our freedom.  Without that, we’re no better than those trying to detract from us.  But sometimes patriotism isn’t enough.  We have to be better.

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Special Rob and Westminster Abbey

I was finally able to make it across town to take a tour of Westminster Abbey.  Unfortunately you’re not allowed to take pictures why you’re in there; something about a whole bunch of dead people being buried there.  Settle down England.

It truly was a breathtaking place to visit.  Amazing buttresses, columns, golden ornamental stuff and elaborate marble structures.  But you can’t see any of that because of the dead people.  Lame.  I was able to snap one picture of the cloister.  Don’t ask me what a cloister is.

All of the English monarchs are buried there.  The One Who Killed French People, the One Who Killed His Wives, the One Who Murdered Her Cousin and the One Who Pretended To Be Really Pious But Actually Probably Got Laid A Fair Amount among others.

There are some pretty famous literary figures buried or commemorated there as well so I got to hang out with them which was nice.  Samuel Johnson, Keats, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, William Blake, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, One of the Shelleys, Dylan Thomas and Gerard Manly Hopkins were all buried or commemorated there.  The Bronte sisters were also honored there as well for, of course, writing those books that dealt with feelings and complicated white women in the Victorian age.  This is in contrast to Jane Austen wrote about rich, white women with feelings during the Victorian Age.  Rudyard Kipling, notorious racist imperialist douche, is honored at Westminster Abbey as well.  He was most famous for writing The White Man’s Burden which is a detailed narrative about white men trying to look cool at clubs even though they can’t dance well.  Truly moving stuff.  Keep biting that bottom lip Mr. Kipling.  Ass.

Just as a side note, I need to give a brief shout out to people who are actors, film commercials or do anything with a camera where you’re not supposed to look at it directly and succeed.  I was approached by two young British people working for a company that plays all the local soccer matches on the radio.  So they asked me to have headphones in my “mobile phone” (dorks), walk about eight paces and then scream, “YEAH!!!!” as if there were a goal.  This is notable because there is a goal about twice a year in soccer so naturally spectators are pretty thrilled.  This also helps them wake up.

With this very simple plan, I managed to screw it up by looking at the camera five times in a row.  I mean I did it even when I was trying my absolute hardest not to.  I was doing the shifty-eyed thing where I looked at the camera with my peripheral vision.  I might still be blushing.  What is more embarrassing is that they were doing this on a busy street so not only could several hundred people see me do this commercial and scream, “YEAH!!!” just once, but they saw me screw this thing up five times in a row before actually getting it right.

By the time it was all finished they looked at me like I was Special.  I don’t mean special the way my mom says it on Christmas morning or when I graduated from college.  I mean Special like the kid who ate glue in elementary school.  You always caught him because you sure as shit didn’t need that much adhesive to make a snow man out of construction paper (which my mom still has hanging up in her office).  Why should he?

In any case, it was a thoroughly humbling experience that made me appreciate people who a) do that kind of thing for a living and b) don’t manage to throw up on themselves every time they do it.

Also, Westminster Abbey was pretty Special.  I mean special.

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The Whiteness

Song for this post: “House Wigger” by Junk Science

 While perusing one of my favorite websites,, I noticed in the list how incredibly white this trip to London is.  It combines serveral important components of whiteness in one seminal experience. 

#81 – Graduate School

#72 – Study Abroad

#19 – Traveling

#18 – Awareness

#120 – Taking a Year Off – Working for two years straight was really hard.  I better get back to school.

#112 – Hummus – Because realistically I’m going to be eating delicious Middle Eastern food and bragging about it.

#111 – Pea Coats – The British Navy used to wear pea coats and I most certainly plan on getting one while I’m here.

#7 – Diversity

#106 – Facebook

#105 – Unpaid Internships – Going to graduate school abroad is like an unpaid internship except instead of not getting paid for the experience, you pay for it.

#103 – Sweaters – I bought two sweaters right before I left.

#94 – Free Healthcare – Hooray socialism!

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The Accent Adventure

Song for this post: “Jungle Brother (True Blue)(Stereo MC’s Remix)” by Jungle Brothers

When I went to set up my student bank account at LSE I was forced with the sobering reality that they don’t just let you walk in and do it.  There are several pieces of paper with certain pieces of information that must be on them in order to be considered valid.  I won’t bore you with the details but I will tell you that I frightened several LSE employees and stomped around like a brat on Christmas morning in between several buildings at LSE breathing homicide and cyanide at anyone who dared to get in my way.  Plus I totally had a blister on my pinky toe.  So look out.

When the day finally came for my appontment at the bank to set up my account I had a nice gentleman named Faisal who was from London and he had a pretty thick British accent which I was able to navigate successfully for most of the appointment.  Towards the end there appeared be some technical difficulties by no fault of Faisal.  Sometimes technology doesn’t work smoothly.  I get it.  As a result, the system needed to be rebooted and I had to submit some information that I had already given.  When it came time to enter my address in the United States, Faisal asked me for my postcode.  His accent combined with me going into information auto-pilot, it sounded like this, “poustecowd”.  I was indeed spacing out a bit and given my inability to understand accents, I thought he was asking me for my online banking “passcode”.  I don’t think any human in any country calls it a passcode, but whatever, so I told him my online banking passcode and he entered this information. 

We’re about to finish and he looks at me humbly and asks, “Mr. Warner, I just wanted to verify that your ‘poustecowd’ was (insert passcode).”  The second time I realized he was asking for my postcode.  I blushed rather deeply, asked him to fix it and I gave him my real post code.  “Oh yes, Faisal.  Everyone in the US has VERY strange postcodes.  Mine in Rye, New Hampshire is PeanutButterLawnGnome.  Yes, that’s very normal.  Don’t be alarmed.  I have to go to my appointment with The Flying Spaghetti Monster and The Smurfs near the Candy Cane Forest.  I trust you’ll take care of all of this.  I must go though.  I parked my magic carpet in a handcap spot.”

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The Differences

Song for this post: “Express Yourself” by N.W.A.

After being in London a little over a week I’ve compiled a small list of things that I’ve noticed, amazingly, are different from my experience in America.  I never would have guessed.  Because everyone loves lists, I present a list of things that London, as a city, hates and loves.

London Loves

  1. Walking – like, everywhere.
  2. Scarves
  3. Taking your money 
  4. Diversity – I’ve never seen so many mixed race couples in my entire life.  It’s really quite lovely.  Walking around you rarely hear English and will see Indians, Pakistanis, Eastern Europeans, and many more.  This contributes to many different kinds of food.
  5. Public transportation – I actually love the tube.  This is from someone who has a mild phobia of public transportation.  My friends from New York and New Jersey will be the first ones to tell you that.
  6. Being Fashionable – People simply are well put together and well dressed.  Perhaps it is just the places I’m walking, but dapper is the name of the game in London.  I’ve only seen one pair of sweatpants since I moved here.  And those were actually trendier than the jeans I was wearing.
  7. Club/Dance music – You can hear this anywhere.  You know how the music in Abercrombie and Fitch makes you want to either take Ecstasy and dance or, at the very least fist pump just a bit?  Well in London, you can hear this music anywhere.  I’m talking frantic drumbeats and loud club sounds in a quaint coffee shop.  Must. Do. Club drugs.
  8. Sandwiches – The little London bodegas and bistros have so many sandwiches that many of them seem made up just to fill the rabid market demand for sandwiches (cut in triangles, mind you).  Eggs, salmon and jelly? Yes, please.
  9. Beer – Beer is everywhere and everyone drinks it.  Why?  Because it’s cheap and delicious.  There are so many different types, brands and styles and it’s everywhere.  An absurdly cheap beer at a pub in London is roughly two and a half pounds which is roughly $3.90 American dollars which is what you might pay for a Bud Light or Coors Light bottle in most cities in America (New Orleans and college towns excluded).  The rub lies in the fact that this gets you a pint of beer instead of twelve ounces in your standard beer bottle you would purchase in the US.  If you convert this into twelve ounce increments it’s $3.90 American/Pint of beer (16 ounces),  then X= $ spent/12 ounces of beer.  X= $1.875 per twelve ounces of beer which is unheard of.
  10. Indian food
  11. Skinny ties – This is accompanied by “slim” suits.  How this exists with the cheapness of beer is something I’m not sure I’ll ever comprehend.  It might have something to do with ubiquity of walking.
  12. Soccer/football – This permeates news, politics, popular culture, social relations and most discussions of the moral righteousness of certain individuals.
  13. High heels – This combined with the predeliction for walking is another paradox I fail to understand fully.
  14. Justin Bieber – At all of the tourst shops and carts there was certain fare you could guarantee: t-shirts with London stuff on them, postcards of Big Ben, etc., but every single one of them had sweatshirts and t-shirts that said “I Heart Justin Bieber.” 

London Hates

  1. Affordable apartments
  2. Cheap food (outside of sandwiches)
  3. Easy discernible and distinct native cuisine
  4. Stopping pedestrians – Cars have the right of way. Simple.
  5. Roads that make sense, e.g. city planning.
  6. Big tables – This is a problem for me when I go out to eat.  Space is at a premium in London so restaurant owners must strive for maximum spatial efficiency with their tables.  Alas, larger humans, such as myself have to do the same airport crotch/butt shuffle past tables in close proximity just to sit down.  It’s a miracle I haven’t ruined someone’s evening yet.
  7. Shorts – Everyone wears pants all the time.  The only people wearing shorts are me and the German tourists.  There are so many German tourists that if they all decided at once to invade various branches of the British government, they could take over the country in three days.
  8. Cheap cab fare – Lesson learned.
  9. Appropriate beverage temperature – The coffee is served just a shade above lukewarm.  This is a stark contrast to the magma coffee you get in the US where it’s way too hot but sip it anyways and everything tastes like glue for a week.  But at least the coffee was hot.  Also, the beer is served cold, but it has just enough warmth in it for you to think someone might have forgotten to refrigerate it long enough. 
  10. Simplicity – Paperwork and bureacracy is the name of the game.  From real estate to verifying bank documents to school paperwork, be prepared to use another London staple, walking to navigate the paper bureaucracy.
  11. Talking quietly on cell phones in public – This might just be a Western thing, but I feel that most people in the US are aware of the fact that no one needs to hear you give diaper instructions to your husband when I’m eating lunch.  People in the US will talk quietly, will leave the venue or ask to call the person back because they’re (insert venue) and it wouldn’t be appropriate.  Not in London.  People talk full volume full steam ahead on the cell phone no matter where you are.  I haven’t had the movie theater cell phone problem that I encounter in the US though.  I’m not talking about phones ringing, I’m talking about the time I went to see a movie and the woman next to me picked up her phone and said, “Yeah, I’m at the movies.  No, I can talk.”  She had a ten minute conversation about her weekend plans.  Two more minutes and those plans would have involved removing 217 movie theater straws from her skull. 

This is all that I’ve noticed for now.  There will be updates to this list as more time goes on.  Here are some more pictures in the meantime.

Embankment Gardens

Church next to Westminster Abbey

I was praying this was a gay club. My prayers weren't answered.

Buckingham Palace. The Queen was here. Some guy Benedict was in town too. Sounds like a bit of a douche though.

Better view of Buckingham Palace

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The First Weekend

Song for this post:  “Keeping it Classic” by Funky DL

Friday night, after going down for a short coma, I hear from my friend Richard who lives in London.  He calls me on my new phone to ask if I’d like to “meet up for a pint”.  The colloquialism is almost as exciting as the invite.

We meet at Trafalgar Square right next to Charing Cross station.  I have to be told this.  Trafalgar Square is amazing with really cool fountains.  There are tons of kids hanging around having a good time.  It appears to me that they have beer.  Repeat, they are in a public outdoor place and they have open beer cans.  For those of you reading from New Orleans you’re probably thinking big woopity doo, but for those of you anywhere else this is a huge deal.  London, I feel this is the beginning of a mutually fruitful relationship.  And by fruitful I mean drinking.

Trafalgar Square:

After meeting up, Richard takes me to this bar to which I forget the name.  It had some sort of Australian theme.  The name might have been something like “Outback” or “The Bush”.  The former is funny because that is a laughably bad restaurant chain popular in the US and the latter because I have the maturity of a nine-year old.

Ah, yes, I recall the name now, the bar was called “Walkabout”.  Already it’s cool because it reminds me of that episode of Lost where we find out Jon Locke (spoiler) was in a wheelchair before coming to the island.  That episode made me cry at the end where he’s on the ground wiggling his toes and he stands up for the first time.  Goosebumps.  

The bar is a bit longer than it is wide, and goes back pretty far.  One of its benefits is that it has lots of tables which are all taken.  This is something that I feel all the bars I’ve ever been to suffer from: a lack of tables.  Yes, I understand that tables aren’t cost effective because you sacrifice space that could have paying customers for space for furniture, blah, blah. Tables still would be nice.  I also would like a pony and some diamond shoes.

Richard and I have a good time shooting the shit.  I am grateful to hang out because he is a good guy and he is my only friend in London.

So thanks to Richard for making me feel cool.

Walkabout plays a wide variety of American pop music which is perfectly fine by me because I get to fondly remember a time where the most I had to worry about was T-Pain and Dem Franchise Boyz.  The coming of Cyrus and Bieber was foretold in the Dead Sea Scrolls to be two of the four horsepeople of the Apocalypse.

Richard and I leave the bar and go our separate ways.  He informs me that my room is this way. “Sure,” I say.

After walking in the direction that I think I’m supposed to be going I realize that I am indeed lost again.  Being a man and having sixty-four ounces of beer in me, I decide that I can totally get home by myself.  I start following the map as I cling to it like a caveman with his first torch.  The map is soon rendered superfluous as I start seeing street names absent from the map. Not good.

A cab driver sees me looking confused and offers me a cab ride back to High Holborn.  It is expensive.  I am grateful and over tip.  I go into my building grateful for sleep and eager for another day of exploring and getting lost.

I wake up on Saturday morning hopeful for an entertaining day.  I walk over to campus fully rested to take in some of the buildings.  Here are some pictures:

I will stick to my guns on my sleep deprived observations about LSE’s campus.  It is certainly old and certainly beautiful.  The campus is actually quite small, its buildings taking up only a few blocks in all directions.  There is this unlikely harmony between the old and the new.  There are old brick buildings with cobblestone streets with neighbouring buildings that are much larger and much newer.  It is counterintuitive, but works.  I am struck by a little bit of nausea and elation that I get to go to school here. I already feel privileged to be here.  I make my way to Starbucks and enjoy a slice of Americana.  More walking ensues; I grab a snack on the way back to my room and prepare for a trip to Richard’s parents’ house in Blackheath.

I naturally get lost on the way to the train station.  The train leaves Charing Cross at 7:09 to get to Blackheath.  I arrive at the station at 7:07 after having mistakenly gone to the Charing Cross tube station.  I do the Tourist Stare at the computer which will give me my ticket.  There is a line accumulating behind me.  I am about thirty more seconds away from ripping the computer out of the wall.  I decide instead to apply my college degree and buy a train ticket.  The line behind me might as well have started clapping.  Being European though, I averaged 130 pounds on every single one of them. America!

The train ride to the village of Blackheath goes by the London Eye and Big Ben on its way across the River Thames.  Everyone on the train has the calm savvy that only repetition and confidence can bring.  They have the New York City look that people have on the subway and trains.  It basically says, “Yeah I’m traveling in New York.  Big friggin’ deal.  My jacket costs too much.”

I arrive in Blackheath and decide that it might be the cutest place in the entire world.  It has all these cool shops, buildings are no larger than three stories and is the exemplar of what you might call a “village”.  Also, half the cars there, I kid you not, could fit in the back of my pickup truck.  Now, I don’t mean “pick in the back of my pickup truck” the way I say it exaggerate the largeness of my truck.  These cars are… well they’re wee.  I want to put frosting on them.

Blackheath and a tiny car:

Class STD?  Best. Class. Ever.

We walk from the train station to Richard’s house which is about a twenty minute walk.  People in England LOVE to walk.  I sense more sweat in my future.

The evening passes with some television as well as Chinese food.  Everyone wins except the terrorists.

I spend the majority of the next day watching Formula One racing and cricket.  Formula One racing is impressive, but I’m convinced it’s just NASCAR with Europeans.  White Americans will never compare the two because the European-ness blinds them to the fact that Formula One is still people racing cars in some variation of a circle.

Cricket, despite taking six hours to complete a match, is fairly interesting.  I will warn you, it is not for the faint of heart.  The pacing is… well, it’s not for everyone.  It makes baseball’s pacing seem like a kid sliding down carpeted stairs in footy pajamas.

I have a lovely dinner at the Williamson’s and take the train back to London.  Not a bad first weekend.

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The Arrival

Song for this post:  “The Arrival” by Atmosphere

Every time that I’ve been in line waiting to go through customs I will look around and play a game I like to call, “Who Looks Like a Drug Dealer”.  It’s actually pretty enjoyable because I get to people watch and decide whether the middle aged woman or the eighty year old man with hearing aids the size of mutant strawberries is more likely to be smuggling something illegal.

I went through customs without a hitch, picked up my luggage and went out to a taxi to be taken to my temporary housing.  The first little bit of culture shock is more subjective than objective.  I have problems with understanding accents.  Thank goodness Jen doesn’t have a drawl or I would just always be nodding at her.  This could lead to communication issues.

As a result of this mental deficiency, I can only understand about 85% of English spoken with a British accent.  So I do the thing where I say “yes” to things as the response most likely to be deliberately ambiguous and non-committal.   The Scale of Indecipherable English When Spoken as Native Language goes like this:

  1. British
  2. Scottish
  3. Caribbean
  4. Alabamian
  5. Irish

When I went on vacation to the island of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, my buddy Chase would routinely order for me at restaurants because the only thing I could handle was ordering a drink and an entrée. I stopped ordering steak because it was an extra question for me to answer.   Any deviation from the normal routine would cause me to violently flip the table over. 

I somehow managed to convey to the cab driver where I was staying.  It’s at this point that I encountered my second culture shock.  People are driving on the left side of the road.  Mother of God.  In addition to being on the left side of the road, the speed limit signs are different.  So I basically have no idea how fast we’re going plus we’re on the “wrong” side of the road.  Someone could have smeared chocolate pudding on a sign on the highway and I would have looked and been like, “Oh ok” and had more of a clue than I did on that cab ride.  Considering I hadn’t slept on the flight, I figured we were traveling somewhere between the speed of the sound and the speed at which Solomon leaves the room when people are arguing.

I arrive at the dorm on High Holborn unscathed.  Woefully, check-in isn’t until 3pm.  I have been up for twenty-one hours straight.  But people are starving in Ethiopia… still.  So perhaps I should keep things in perspective and man up.  I drop my bags off and start walking.

Third bit of culture shock:  I stick out as American.  I’m not entirely sure why this is surprising.  I weigh about 245 pounds, I have a Northface backpack on and I’m wearing a hooded sweatshirt.  Also, I’m the only one wearing shorts.  The first one means any European could be about 95% certain, but with the Northface apparel it brought the probability to somewhere around 99.99%.  I might as well have been playing “Stars and Stripes Forever” on an electric guitar while shooting a pistol off in the back of a pickup truck running over Iraqis.

While walking around I learn something else about London as a city.  London doesn’t seem to have any sort of order… per se.  Street names change arbitrarily, roads will turn to alleys and lead you opposite of the direction you need to go, and, as a result, it is difficult to tell which is way is North, South, etc.  London simply is there.  It’s like a scatterplot of buildings with roads built around them.  Just the way spaghetti is a bunch of meatballs with noodles built around it.

The employees at the first placed I went to, called “Green Gardens”, were very nice and asked, with some excitement, if I was American.  I replied that I was and both employees found this thoroughly interesting.  They asked me why I would ever move to London.  Charming.  Changing the subject, I informed them that I had chosen their establishment as the place where I would have my first meal in London.  This is not quite as interesting to them.

After my meal I still have another four hours before I can check in.  Hours without sleep:  23.

I use my tourist indicator, a.k.a . my map, to circuitously head over towards LSE.  It is beautiful and old.  More descriptions will follow at a later time.  Very. Sleepy.

After leaving campus I walk around and, after doing so for roughly an hour, I’ve decided I’m officially lost.  However I’m not entirely sure that I care.  There’s something very enjoyable about taking in all the new scenery and knowing I have the appropriate fiscal fortitude to get back to my room no matter what.  I might as well enjoy the unknown.

Hours without sleep:  25.

More aimless wandering and I realize that I’m close to my room.  I walk in, covered in sweat (naturally) and finally am allowed to go to my room.  A very nice gentleman helps me with my bags.  I throw them down and sleep four five hours straight. Victory.

Hours without sleep:  0

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The Flight

Song for this post: “Nuthin’ But a “G” Thang” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg

(Why not?)

The airport is always stressful.  I don’t care if you are a well-endowed eighteen year old billionaire (thank you George Carlin) people are feeling a little vulnerable.  This is why the airport bar is a strange necessity. 

As a side note, who do you have to screw to sit in the exit row?  Those six inches really do make all the difference.

Don’t say it.

In any case, the only reason the airport bar had any positive vibes on this particular evening instead of the ambiance of alcoholism and casual sex was because FOOTBALL WAS RETURNING!!!! BEER!!!! TWINS!!!! IMPERIALISM!!!!

 I’m certainly not above it.  I play fantasy football, I talk about fantasy football and will openly discuss the merits of Tom Brady’s haircut (Justin Bieber) or Adrian Peterson’s abs (chiseled marble).

The Saints were playing the Vikings and, much to my surprise, every single person in the bar was rooting for the Saints… in Boston.  And half of these people were from England.   This really was a testament to how captivating the Saints’ story from last season was.   I was among friends for sure.  I was able to watch the first half with the Saints leading 7-3 if I recall correctly.

 I had a couple drinks before getting on the flight so I was feeling fairly relaxed (see buzzed).  I walk onto the plane and find my seat.  Someone is sitting in it.  I deliberately requested to have the aisle seat for two reasons:  I have a small bladder for someone my size and I’m 6’2.  I like to stretch my legs into the aisle during the flight and I hate putting my butt or crotch into someone’s face to shuffle past them.  

So there’s this woman in my seat who looks like she just took several cookies from the cookie jar before dinner.  Wanting to seem above this clear violation of my aviatory rights, I took the middle seat (see pushover).  It has nothing to do with the fact that I was trying to avoid confrontation.  Keep in mind that the middle seat is less than desirable; someone always ends up sleeping on me and, without fail, there is a woman who is six thousand years old who wants to tell me about that time she made brownies with walnuts and nice Mr. Caruthers from the hardware store told her the walnuts were a perfect accent that time he helped her replace a light bulb, in 1953.  And even though she was married she had lustful feelings for Mr. Caruthers who had always smiled at her even though she was a married woman and it was the 1950’s and things were different back then and it was wrong for her to have these feelings outside of her marriage and every once in a while Mr. Caruthers would be in her dreams and Father Sullivan told her she needed to pray more but she ended up getting divorced in 1969 and Mr. Caruthers was married at that point.

So I was feeling pretty good despite these potentialities, but nothing could prepare me for what would happen next.

Being an international flight, there’s a movie.  And I’m sitting right by the television screen so I’m kind of juiced to kill a portion of this six hour flight feeling peachy on bourbon and anti-anxiety medication. 

As a side note to my mother who is reading this:  Yes, I had two drinks and took my medication.  And, yes, I know you and the doctor told me not to, but I did it anyways.  I’m a grown up! 

Thanks for packing the sandwiches though.

What happened next was, in the plainest sense, very not good.  The movie was that one where Common’s a basketball player and Queen Latifah is a human. 

As someone who owns a whole bunch of Common’s music and enjoys it in addition to some of his minor acting roles, I, out of principle, refused to watch the movie.  However, while watching It’s Always Sunny, I took a several glimpses at the movie.  Here’s what I could gather about the plot:

  • Queen Latifah is a fan of the New Jersey Nets; the team for whom Common plays.
  • Common is really good even though his jersey number is nineteen.  
  • Common’s legitimacy as a talented player is verified by cameos from Duhwight Howard and Duhwayne Wade who banter with him.
  • Common somehow meets Queen Latifah.
  • Queen Latifah is a successful, independent woman who don’t need NO man.
  • Common might be attracted to her.
  • Common uses the famous person dating non-famous person trick where he shows up at her house.  When famous people stalk it’s called “romantic”.
  • Despite being independent and successful, Queen Latifah lives with her dad.
  • The Dad, in the only realistic plot line, is thrilled that Common is interested in his daughter so he can finally poop with the bathroom door open.
  • A series of preposterous and elaborate dates take place where Common makes assumptions about Queen Latifah. 
  • Those assumptions are wrong.
  • Common’s attraction to Queen Latifah grows stronger.
  • Things become Difficult.  Common looks remorseful and Queen Latifah looks pensive while being filmed at separate locations from Common.
  • Common has a big game where Everything counts on it.  “Love is a game of basketball and they’re in for the game of their lives!!!” metaphor is emphasized further.  I miss Love and Basketball.
  • Queen Latifah’s pensiveness leads to an Epiphany and that Thing that made things Difficult is actually Unimportant because of her Love for Common.
  • There’s a Speech by Common at the End and Love conquers all.
  • Common and Queen Latifah go to the Pizza Hut Lunch Buffet.

Guess which one of those I made up.

Now I bet you’re thinking, man, you seemed to have garnered a significant amount of plot details despite not actually watching the movie. 

Well gee, you are right, but I know so much because they played the movie twice in a row.

I need to find the flight attendants who saw this plan and thought, “Awesome.  Four hours of Queen Latifah and Common acting.”

The flight attendants in-flight itinerary probably looked like this:

  1. Seating, cross check.  Look pissed off that someone is playing GameBoy right before take off.
  2. Resent crying babies.
  3. Safety demonstration.
  4. After take-off, administer beverages to passengers once reaching cruising altitude.  Hit a minimum of seventeen elbows with beverage cart.  Feel no remorse.
  5. Roll eyes at passenger who asks for Pepsi.  Give ticket voucher good for travel to 1996.
  6. Pass out “dinner”.
  7. Resent passenger who asks if there is a vegetarian option. Give ticket voucher good for travel to California or Vagina Island.
  8. Start movie.
  9. Roll credits.
  10. Start same movie.
  11. Administer cyanide.
  12. Land.


Welcome to London!

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The Departure

Song for this post:  “All I Know” by Art Garfunkel

I can’t stress enough how much planning had gone into this one little plane ride.   There were the extensive hours spent sorting through the bureaucratic cluster bombs and semantics-driven quagmires of applying for a UK student visa.  I spent hours calling real estate offices at eight in the morning (fail).  There was the anxiety of finding temporary housing with LSE and then the sweat and tears finding the right flight.  Once this was all taken care of there was the packing, the unpacking, the repacking, the debates on whether or not I needed four pairs of Nike athletic shoes (I didn’t) or if I was allowed to bring tooth paste with my carry-on luggage (I should have).  I would like to take this moment to thank my mom for helping me maintain my sanity while I complained and ate my feelings.

But despite all the anxiety, man-tears, wavering faith in mankind, and a shaky belief that the UK was actually on Earth, the departure was, actually, bittersweet Zen.

I drove to the airport with my family with that kind joviality that can only come after successful planning.  I credit my family for the support given to me during this whole process.  They would listen to me whine like a child about forms and then Solomon would calmly explain them to me.  I was so stressed that I couldn’t even enjoy the fact that I had a talking dog.  Perhaps its best I couldn’t listen to Solly.  It’s always tennis ball this or poop smell that; or sometimes it’s a tennis ball that smells like poop.  God, Solly, grow up.

The Hallmark moment of my parents watching their baby go through security successfully on his way to a prestigious graduate school was ruined by my consumerist hubris.  Of course I needed to bring my speakers and subwoofer for my laptop in carry on.  After a thorough search of my frame pack by Sully and Murph, I was cleared through security and waved goodbye to my parents.  It was on to the American Airlines dance party.

It is amazing how transitions will make me miss a situation, however temporary.  When I left New Orleans it was difficult to see beyond the obvious sorrow of leaving an amazing city with limitless cultural and social contributions.  Also, leaving New Orleans meant leaving something familiar in the wonderful relationships I had the fortune of coming into with my amazing girlfriend Jen as well as my great group of friends.  It was incredibly challenging to realize that leaving New Orleans for New Hampshire was merely a step to living in another country; probably because I had so much figurative and literal mileage to cover before that dream could be realized.  

Sure living in New Hampshire with my parents for the past month has been a lot of Scrabble and Netflix, but there was something very comforting about being in my original home surrounded by the people who support and love me.  They did so much “loving and supporting” that I gained ten pounds.

Despite that, thanks Mom and Dad.  I couldn’t have done it without you.

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