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.