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.
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.