Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I Didn't Even Watch It

So, I'm in England for Christmas, and there's all this talk about the Queen's Christmas message being broadcast, not only on t.v., but also on the ever exciting World Wide Web. Now that she is the oldest living monarch in English history (it's true), she has decided to make a run into the new millennium. So, all this talk, and all this new technology stuffs, and I didn't even watch the message. I didn't watch it on T.V., and I certainly didn't look it up on YouTube. So what does that make me? A crummy visitor? Nah....Amerrikan....thru and thru. I don't need me no message from no queen to benchmark this spectacular season. I just need some pumpkin pie and a big bird to eat, and that's what I had, I tell you...that's what I had (well...the pumpkin pie is running a little late, but it's on the way).

After a long day of sleeping and eating and then sleeping some more, I promptly went to bed and slept for eleven hours. It was quite impressive, if I do say so myself...and I do...say so myself. I woke up this morning and began enjoying the fun that is Icanhascheezburger.com. It's almost always funny.

We all went for a walk at the "water-park" which is not, as you might imagine, a park filled with water-slides, wave pools, and the ever popular "lazy river." No, it was a park...with a very large pond, a canal, and little bitty pond full of all sorts of exciting organisms for your study and inspection. I learned that my running pants are a bit too large and that brambles and thorns provide the perfect cover for an emergency bathroom break. Liam burned his arm on the pie crust pan this evening and has put the pumpkin pie making back only briefly. We shall prevail. Later tonight, despite the obvious objections from the parents, Liam, his sister, all of the local friends, and I will be going to a dingy dance club to listen to brit pop and bad rock while we dance and make merry. I've been told it's legendary. We shall see.

The Manchester sky was mostly clear and bright this afternoon just as it was yesterday afternoon...which is a far cry from my experience this summer. Let's see if we can't go three days in a row.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Pants

Yes, Apryl, they still love "Do They Know It's Christmas-time". To tell you the truth, I don't even think I remember ever hearing it until this year, but I'm also probably wrong about that. These English folk lap up that charity stuff like the left-overs in the bowl you use to make Rice-Crispie-treats. Yes, google, that is how you spell 'Crispie' (it's complaining).

Let me apologize, first of all, for not writing in quite a long time. Living in a new country can really take it out of a person, and I began working...as I was SURE I never would. Then sleeping, working, and generally, to use a Liamism "busting about" took precedence. Let me also assure you that I will soon be receiving a new camera by which I will be able to post pictures of my adventures for you to see. It's a Christmas miracle.

London has been lovely, and, surprisingly enough, I've adapted to the cold weather. It's consistent at least, and that makes quite a difference. I also bought a space heater and a man came and fixed our radiators which helped with the cold factor on the inside. The only thing I can't quite get used to is the smell of exhaust coming from the buses and cars around London. I mean, I'm used to the black stuff in my nose, it doesn't really bother me all that much, but the smell of exhaust on a cold crisp morning, it just doesn't do it for me quite yet.

The past weeks have been quite interesting. I went to a folk music show at a big old church a few weeks ago and discovered that the headlining act was a guy that went to ACU. I don't know if I even keep up with anyone from ACU any more except for Janna and Isaiah, but you might recognize the name Micah P. Hinson, and if you don't, you might recognize the name Dr. Waymon Hinson from the Bible department at ACU. Micah, while being kicked out rather infamously from ACU, has made quite a name for himself in the folk music scene in the UK. He has a fantastic voice. AND, best of all...perhaps even...most ACU of all, was the fact that he proposed to his girlfriend on stage after his show. I couldn't help but roll my eyes, and I didn't really know if it was because of bitterness, or the sheer ACU-ey-ness of it all. I spoke with her before the show, and she was really nice. Good for her...them. There was a corridor in the church with a sign posted at the entrance that explained that the corridor had been only recently re-opened after many years of being closed due to a ghost of some sorts. The hypothesis was reached after many unexplained occurrences, and the sign pleaded that if we experienced anything unexplained, unexpected, or unusual, we were to report it to someone immediately. After the first set we walked back through the corridor whose walls had been empty the first time save for the warning to find the walls now covered in ads for another music show that had ALREADY HAPPENED! It was quite unexplained AND unusual. However, we didn't report it. Cause we weren't skeered.

I am now in Manchester enjoying the cold and often-times rain, but, more importantly, I am really enjoying the FOOD. Liam's parents are quite the cooks. It's Christmas day, as you might realize, and I've just finished a Christmas dinner of: Goose, stuffing, glazed Clementine's, roasted potatoes, parsnips, carrots, brussel sprouts, and loads of gravy...and all while wearing one of those paper crowns that you always seen English people in movies wearing on Christmas. Liam's mother and I have forced Liam to succumb to our prodding and allow us to pick out for him a nice dressy wool coat and a few sweaters (which they call jumpers, but don't be fooled, no one's buying little dresses for my boyfriend). We trapped him in a department store and cornered him with a snazzy trendy number that he reluctantly tried on. When he examined himself in the mirror, he looked like a lost puppy...however, by the end of the brainwashing session, he was excited and rather picky about what coat exactly we chose for him. The initial shopping for Liam without him ended in Liam's mother buying something for me. I too, was sabotaged into allowing her to buy me a very cute dress...it was quite bewildering to be honest.

I could write a great deal more, but, honestly, do you really want to read it all right now? I'll write more tomorrow. At the moment, I'm slinking off to the front room to curl up under a blanket and watch movies for the rest of the evening. I'm also loosening my belt...ah, hell....I'm changing into pajama pants.
Merry Christmas! EAT! and then put on some stretchy pants...or put on stretchy pants first. In any case, may your Christmas include stretchy pants!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What Heels do to My Balls

So....okay....thank you so much for all the encouragement, first of all. Second of all, about three hours after posting my previous blog, I got a call from my temp agency offering me a two and a half week gig as a receptionist. The pay is crap, but the hours are good, and the work is fairly simple...and it affords me time to read (and that is confirmed by the other receptionists). Now lets talk a little more about professional wear in London:

As I've said, I immediately ran out and bought a blazer to wear to do all the important telephone answering that I'm set to do, and on the morning of my first shift (i.e. this morning) I gussied myself up and slid into sexy two and a half inch heels that I bought at payless a few years ago (do not attempt to teach me a lesson that I have already learned by this point). I stepped out the door to your typical windy, spitty, London rain, and cleverly pulled my umbrella out of my bag. However, said umbrella must have cost me no more than about $3 and was constantly getting inverted by the wind and leaving me looking like a blustering idiot. Another siren went off when halfway to the Tube, I realized that my shoes were killing me and that there was probably a river of blood running over the ankle of the shoe. There was not, so I kept going. I arrived at work to a poor girl that was sniffling and sneezing (they're EVERYWHERE...like POD people...trying to take over our immune systems and force us to create inordinate amounts of mucus) the entire time that she was explaining my duties to me. I'll tell you more about the other girls in another blog. I'd like to stick to the theme with this one, and I certainly don't want to wear anyone out. After limping around the office, following the girls around to different destinations to do odd jobs, I decided I needed to have a look at my ankle. They set me up with some band-aids (plasters...in this crazy backwards country), and I locked myself in the ladies to bandage myself. What I found was a nickel-sized little bastard just begging to be drained. SO...I got a safety pin, some alcohol swabs, and a cup of seriously boiling hot water (from the handy instant coffee machine) and set to work. It popped quite easily and drained slowly into a little splotch on the toilet seat. I then commenced cleaning it with the alcohol, which, for an instant, stung me worse than anything has ever stung me. I had to sit down it was so startlingly painful. Then I bandaged her up and walked with a fair bit of ease for the rest of the afternoon. By the evening, however, I honestly thought I was going to die. There are no words...NO WORDS, I say, that could describe to you the agony of the pressure on the balls of my feet as I staggered home after work. Of course the Tube was rammed, and I was forced to stand, crammed up against the door willing myself to balance on my heels. When I arrived at my home station, I swallowed, dreading the next seven minute walk to my door-step. I was standing, and I was walking...but inside, I was crawling along the side-walk (pavement...in England), reaching out, begging for aid, crying for relief. I felt like the bones in my feet were going to pour out my toes, and while I tried to walk on my heels to relieve the pressure on my balls, I found actually moving forward to be far more difficult than I had imagined. I made it, in the end, took the shoes off the minute I stepped over the threshold, and vowed never to wear heels unless I was safe at work, and safely behind my desk. It's sneakers all the way to entrance for me. Flaunting my professionalism to the lemmings on the Tube be damned (for some reason...I love "be damned" at the end of a sentence...it makes me feel like a wizened old man...smoking a pipe, stroking his beard, and soaking his feet after a long day in sexy black heels).

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I am no longer a valuable member of society, or at least, that's how I feel

There's something odd about leaving your home country to live and work in another country...it's something that is incredibly hard to admit...being an American is way easier, and feels much better when in America. I cannot get a job. I can't even get a temping job. I was pretty much guaranteed work on Monday morning, but I ended up waiting around in the agency for three hours until they sent me home because they just couldn't find anything. Well, they found ONE job, but they gave it to the other "sit-in" that arrived fifteen minutes late, because she had a blazer on (and mind you, I was dressed up pretty darn good)...she also had a cold which she may have given to me. We shall see. So, at the moment, I apply for jobs and wait to get the rejection that inevitably comes. I also get up in the very early a.m. to call the temp. agency to tell them that I'm available, and then never get called. Sometimes I cry because I feel so bloody useless, and sometimes I think about coming back to the states so that I can pretty much get a job right off the bat. Sometimes I wonder why the hell I'm so eager to give up any chance of opportunity to be with a guy. I mean, I could be teaching right this instant, but instead I'm in a country that has no use for me. This guy is great, don't get me wrong, and wants to do whatever he can to help me, and is doing whatever he can, but pretty soon, I'm just a drain on him too...so what do I do? Do I wait? Probably. Life is never easy, and, as I've said to many of my friends: anything WORTH doing is going to be difficult, but when does it become just plain stupid? At the moment, I've no desire to do anything. I have the will enough to lie in bed and try to sleep off this lovely gift of a cold that was given to me by Blazer woman who, by the way, was told that a hot toddy would make her feel better, so she had one ON HER WAY TO WORK...so....I'm also smarter than she is. Drink a hot toddy at night because it will help you sleep and it will help your symptoms so that you can comfortably get to sleep. I may not have had a blazer at the time (I've got one now, dammit), but I wasn't drunk. I'm a little more career minded than that. This blog turned out to be way less blubbery than I thought it would be. Surprisingly my mind has taken a utilitarian turn...it may have been the academic writing that I just spent a year trying to perfect. Creativity be damned, I've got a worthless degree!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Crack in the Floor

In case all you arty types are wondering what the new big art thing is this winter....it's a darn crack in the floor at the Tate Modern. I, amazingly, found it on my own yesterday after adamantly vowing to get out of the house in time to make it to the Tate Modern for at least an hour before it closed. London is pretty big, and slightly daunting, therefore making going out to be a bit of a...well...bitch. I journeyed on different trains, roamed down different streets and found the glorious Millennium Bridge at the end of which resided said museum. The sun had set, but the sky was still a dark pale blue and London was absolutely gorgeous. With St. Paul's cathedral behind me, I set across the bridge and found myself at the museum with a good hour and a half to spend roaming around. The first ten minutes, I spent walking along the main exhibit which was...a crack in the floor. It began as a tiny crack in the concrete at one end of this giant main hall (if you've been....maybe you know)and grew, as I walked from one end to the other, until it was quite an impressive chasm that one might (and approximately 11 have...at his point) fall into. However, it's only deep enough for a very thin leg to get caught in up to the mid calf. There were loads of onlookers, following the path, taking pictures, laughing, gawking, sitting in silent reflection. I then went to the third floor to take in the regular exhibits. The first room was easy to enjoy with no more than a few pictures per room, but on the left side of the floor, the walls were so crammed with metaphorical nonsense, that I found myself getting a bit annoyed. I did, however, enjoy the regular video installments of a man being tripped by a dog from different vantage points. The highlight of my trip, I think, was a life-size painting of a woman (yes) that was hanging in a room with only seven other pictures. I wish I could remember the artist and the name, but I walked into the room and was hypnotized. She was beautiful: milky skin, beautiful, simple dress, and this expression of stern disregard. It was so real...but so obviously a painting. It was also very cold. Nothing about this painting made me feel warm inside...she was obviously not impressed with the idea of getting her picture painted...but for some reason...it really appealed to me. I might have even fallen in love with her for a brief moment...and isn't that what some artists are trying to do? Make us see what they see...and feel what they feel?
Afterwards, I trekked back home on the over crowded tube (honestly rolled in like sardines), and had a lovely dinner prepared for me by Liam. Then I watched one of those makeover shows....it was a British one called "How to Look Good Naked" in which a clearly homosexual oober fashionable guy takes a sad pasty girl that hates the way she looks and convinces her that she's fabulous and eventually gets her to model underwear in a runway show. It's really quite uplifting...and startling...the most startling moment was when I saw naked boobs on the T.V...before 9....and also...on basic TELEVISION. BOOBS. I wasn't offended...you know me, I love boobs....but I wasn't actually expecting it. These English...showin' their boobs on T.V. what will they think of next?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Panic Mode

Yesterday I awoke ready to take on the world of temping agencies. I called number after number explaining my situation, and they all told me to email my C.V. and they would get back to me. While this was taking place, some gentlemen drove up in a big truck (yeah...they have those here, but they don't call them trucks...lorries...and if that doesn't do it for you, I don't know what does) and started dumping things into the back of it from the house next door. I only noticed the sound of things thumping onto the back of the truck at first, but then I saw a giant chair fall from the window to my right, and I realized that they were tossing everything in the house out of the upstairs window and making a great deal of noise in the process. Then I heard a loud knock on my door, and my first reaction was to duck down from the window and crawl around on the floor. Here's where the logic begins: I could hear the men talking and glass breaking, and I thought to myself, "they must be knocking on the door to see if anyone is home so that they can break in and steal our stuff too," not the more sensicle (is that a word?) "It must be the post with a package" (which it was). So, I waited on my hands and knees, wondering what I would do and where I would hide if they did break into the house....which they never did...they left after about an hour...but can you imagine that hour for me? SHEESH. Then I talked to Liam and told him about it, and he laughed, and I told him about my job hunting blahs, and he encouraged me and told me that if I wanted to, he could work really hard from the time he got out of school until the quiz at 8, and he would go with me to the quiz, and I thought, "awwww....everything's going to be okay!" which made me think, "am I really that girl?" Liam also told me to stop sitting around the house and to get out and do London things because pretty soon I would have a job and I wouldn't be able to. So I had a little panic about that...messed up the laundry and, despite my better efforts, ended up having to stay in until about 5:45 when I broke free of the confines of the house and bought myself some fuzzy blue slippers for £3. Big city life is AWESOME! Liam and I did go to the quiz..and we came in second place which brought us a great deal of satisfaction as our "group" was originally 18 and I kicked up a fuss about how pointless it would be and how un-fun it was going to be so we split off into a smaller team of about 6 (with two of the original members) and placed second while the giant part of our group placed at like 6th. And just so you know...Liam was CONVINCED that I was totally wrong about and Overture coming at the beginning...so much so that he said to me adamantly, "it's either the middle or the end, but there's no way it's at the beginning" which it WAS...because I KNOW these things....and now I have something to bug him about (don't think about the fact that it was 1 of only about 5 that I was able to answer...but seeing as it was an ENGLISH pub quiz, and I am American...I deserve a pat on the back). For our prize, we won a £20 bar voucher, and I (apparently) demanded the most expensive wine...good ol' Sauvignon Blanc...but it was WORTH IT!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Day One...On the Market

I woke up bright and early this morning, after a weekend of cleaning, loafing, and discovering new crowded shopping centers. I got dressed, got pretty, and made my way across town to a.) get a passport photo (as it was required for registration at this teaching agency I was going to) b.) go to BUNAC and print out a letter of reference (I got there as they were unlocking the door...because the early bird gets the worm) and c.) register at this teaching agency that will not be able to pay me that much money. In this country, only certified teachers are allowed to substitute...for insurance reasons. We don't have that requirement in America and we're still struggling to get people to do it...I wonder what it's like over here...
After finishing up there, I headed back home on the now empty Tube. During rush hour, the cars are full and it doesn't really matter if you don't have anything to hold on to...just lean on someone...or do like I did: cautiously hold on to the folds of some stranger's windbreaker without tugging too much when you lean...just stabilizing. I got back to my station, bought a dodgy (sketchy) SIM card for my phone for 2 pounds (my computer doesn't have the pound symbol...and considering the pound is so darn strong...you'd think It would) and headed back to my house. On the way I saw a man dancing with himself on the sidewalk...like a waltz type dancing...and it made me smile in that innocent "there's no way that guy is crazy, he's just happy" kind of way. Got home to no internet, froze for a few hours, gave in and turned on the heat, fixed the internet, yelled at my dad, battled with my new SIM card, and generally fretted about the future and my money making ability. Does it sound like the trip of a lifetime yet? Tomorrow is phone-call and space heater/slippers buying day. I bet you can't wait to hear about that one. Stay tuned for the awesomeness...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Only 24 Hours Behind Schedule

When I left Atlanta on Wednesday evening, it was around 70 degrees (F), and when I arrived in London on Thursday morning at 7:15 a.m. my guess is...and it's only a guess as they tell me everything in Celsius now...it was around 40 degrees...AND it was cloudy. AND my boyfriend was late picking me up from the airport. Bless his heart...and he even left his home at 5:30 to get there on time. By the time I had arrived at my place of abode and taken a two hour nap, the sun was out, BUT it was in the process of setting. The sky was lovely and pink though. Friday morning I got up and made my way to the BUNAC office to get my work visa validated and to learn about bank accounts and national insurance numbers. Apparently it takes a while to register for a doctor (which is what you do once you have a national insurance number) so most people go to medi-centres...which...the BUNAC people regretted to tell us, would cost as much as 20 pounds to visit. I kept my mouth shut about the $100 base fee for visiting a walk in clinic, and I bit my lip when they explained that hospital emergency visits are free. BIT MY LIP. I got back home at around 1, had some lunch, and then Liam and I commenced cooking the Thanksgiving dinner...on Friday...I know. I had no idea what a feat this actually was...and how many baking dishes were actually involved. Liam, worried that we wouldn't have enough turkey, bought a whole bird + a crown. We defrosted them incorrectly, and had to put them in the microwave...mom, don't cringe. Then we stared at the whole bird for a few minutes, trying to figure out how in the world to get inside of it to pull out the "baggie" of intestines. People began to arrive at around 7 p.m. and they hovered around in the kitchen being excited (the poor english don't get a holiday strictly for eating until you pass out) until Liam and I had to finally shew everyone into the sitting room so that we could set the table and...carve the turkey. Thanks to room-mate Simone for stepping in and tackling that job. Then the stuffing of the faces commenced, and I believe it was quite the success. We watched Rushmore and concluded the evening with bourbon and wine in the kitchen, chatting about being too old to go out on a Friday night, and mocking my poor friend James for not being able to stand on one foot. At one point in the final hours of the night, I turned to my other friend/room-mate James (there are a lot of them...Jameses), who had been adamant that he couldn't go out until Dec. 12 as he had a great deal of studying to do, and I said, "If you don't take a break and go out every once in a while, you'll go crazy, and going out doesn't mean getting wild and regretting it in the morning, you need to learn the art of going out as an adult," a statement that I punctuated with a long belch (and at that moment, I felt myself connected to Diana...more than ever). Perhaps I too need to learn the art of going out as an adult. Sorry mom, but I was in my own house.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ghost Town

Warning: For those of you familiar with my blog stylings, you know that there is the occasional serious blog amidst the plethora of silliness. This blog is one of the fewer. It is also really long.

I've been trying to figure out where to begin this, where in my past, my Memphis past, to put the first brush-stroke. I think the earliest I can remember is a picture of me wearing a little blue shorts outfit. I'm holding an empty "Otter-Pop" bag and sticking out my blue tongue at the camera. My face is serious. It was the beginning of my humor, perhaps, the beginning of the subtlety and the irony. I thought that picture was the funniest thing I had ever seen...of course, this was when I was about five years old. Only a couple of years later, I'm standing at the crosswalk in front of the University of Memphis (Memphis State at the time) Music building. It's raining, and I've just dropped my piano assignment book in one of those puddles that forms in between the curb and the sidewalk, but I'm not going after it, I'm just stunned. Luckily, my mom appears and rescues it from certain drowning, holding it up in the rain, watching the blue ink stream down the pages. Another seven or eight years later, I'm sitting in the band hall at Harding Academy, and the band director is asking if anyone is interested in playing the flute, and I've told the girl next to me that I like the oboe, but I've thought about the flute, and she reaches over and raises my hand for me, who had no idea how that tiny instrument would consume me for so long. Only a year later, I'm standing in the wings backstage with a fellow cast member playing the staring game waiting to see if I could get him to look away before I did, my knees dusty from the crawl-space under the stage that only seasoned high-school actors got to see, enveloped by the smell of the stage make-up, the set paint, and the mildew from the carpet of the auditorium that had flooded one too many times, and on-stage...I'm alive for the first time. Then, fast-way-forward to Abilene, Texas, and I arrive at my college dorm, realizing that, while I was leaving home to come to this place, it was actually one of those towns in barren west-Texas that most people run from. Dust Storms, hail in the springtime, and a sky that went all the way down to the ground accompanied the beginning of my first real heartbreak. Six years after that day, I found myself engaged to a boy that didn't love me, or so he said, in the end, and me without an escape route. When the bottom falls out, everything floods back, and you drown in it. My mom flew to Abilene that very day and took me back Home, twelve hour drive, sleeping, crying, refusing to eat. I lost about a month. Back at home, crying myself to sleep, waking up with my face in the carpet, surrounded by mangled tissues, asking over and over again "Why?" There will never really be an answer. Then I move out of my parents' house, and I'm exactly where I want to be, for the first time in my life. I live in Mid-Town Memphis, and no one knows who I am. Then begins the mistakes. The angry calculated mistakes that come from the realization that life is not an equation in which the result is happiness if the correct variables are used. Waking up every morning and asking myself if I could live with myself, and realizing that I could. After a year of this, I'm at the Buccaneer with my good friend Chris who takes me by the arm and sits me down beside Diana Fazio. It's hard to figure out where to go from here because everything changed. Absolutely everything.
Today, my mother and I drove around Memphis, stopped at the zoo and just stood at the entrance watching the crowds spill out, the children on shoulders, in strollers, and I'm crying...not the hiccup cry, and not the effortless tears, but the tears that the muscles in your face just can't hold back...and I'm explaining that I always knew I would leave, that it was never in my plans to stay, but.....and my mom cuts in and says, "There are moments when....you've always been here." It's cloudy and about 60 degrees, and the leaves are beautiful, gently falling from the trees, and I'm trying to breathe in as much air as I can because it's this air...here...in this mystical place called home, and then I realize why I'm crying...In my mind, in my memory, I'm seeing only me, these pictures, moments...all the way back to that picture of me with the blue tongue...to the insignificant pictures that I took for my mom, of the first buttercups of the spring while riding my bike through Overton Park, once a week trips to the first Target I ever visited, being a kid and sharing popcorn and coke at that very Target with my dad, walking to the grocery store around the corner and freezing in the produce aisles, drinking pabst alone at the Hi-Tone, and then never drinking alone at the Hi-Tone, staying in bed all day with my cats and the heavy blanket my aunt brought home from Vietnam, watching the sun set over the Mississippi river, sharing bottle after bottle of wine on the patio at Bosco's...ghosts of myself, everywhere...always there...always here. And then my friends....in my life, in my pictures. I was lost for a long time, I cried out of fear that there was no place for me, that there were no roots...I don't think I really ever understood home until now.