Monday, March 30, 2009

A Few Days Pass

Well then. I've learned a thing or two by now, one of which is that while I'm living in the equivalent of Society Hill or the Upper East Side, it's only three stops on the Tube to a shopping complex that boasts the English equivalents of Walmart, Shoprite, and Wegman's. Thus, my cupboards are now fully stocked with Nutella, pears, Darjeeling tea, some red meat, sharp cheddar,celery, lovely crusty bread, and, er...not much else. I never said I was good at balancing meals, but at least I'm good at avoiding junk food.

The last few days have been a bit of a whirlwind. I believe I left off on Friday night? Which was a shitshow. Word to the wise: NEVER attempt to coordinate the schedules of 16 people in order to get anything at all accomplished. The lto of us went out for Indian (went to this great place called Masala Zone that was as authentic as a chain restaurant in London cna be) then stopped back at the flat to plan the rest of the evening. After at least an hour of discussing and waiting and fucking around, we split up into two groups. Mine went to Leicester Square to check out the clubs there, and when we arrived and realized that clubs cost money to enter, everyone except Raquel, Kevin, and I bailed. We basically said fuck it and went to Oxygen, and proceeded to have a great time drinking overpriced cocktails, dancing like mad to silly techno, and goggling at the abysmal dancing skills of the English people. I also got surprise-snogged by a cocky English boy and ran into some cuties from Colorado before we stumbled back home.

Everyone was hungover on Saturday, which did not excuse us from the walking tour of S. Kensington that we were forced to take. It turned out to be a rather lovely time, and our tour guide ruled. Our neighborhood if beyond ritzy, but there are plenty of adorable tiny French cafes and shops tucked away along the alleys to keep it interesting. Can't remember the rest of the day, but I do know that I went out for Thai with Jess, Rob and Rainier and thusly managed to miss Extreme Noise Terror. Bummed about that. I ended up staying in and talking to Grzesiek on Skype for about two and a half hours then crashing when the girls came home from whatever gay club they'd tripped off to.

Sunday was a 10am bus tour of the city that took us all over the place and crammed about two days' worth of sightseeing into about three hours. We saw Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the House of Parliament, Scotland Yard, London Bridge, the Old City of London, and about a billion other spots, effectively knocking out about 2/3 of the shit I'm supposed to go see to satisfy my grandmother. Afterwards, I went to lunch and shopping with Jess, Rob, Jo and Lili, and escaped early because H&M is an awful place. Raquel and I went for a run through Kensington Gardens, during which we discovered a couple ponds, a statue of Peter Pan, and a nifty little art gallery called the Serpentine smack dab in the middle of everything. After that, made dinner, then a bunch of us went out for a quick beer before the pubs closed and went to bed early.

Today was our first day of classes! We only had one, a 3-hour lecture on British Culture and Society. I really enjoyed it, and love the professor already, so am looking forward to the rest of the semester with that class at least. Evan, Raquel, Kevin and I went out shopping for necessities afterwards (which took ages), I made a badass dinner (soy chicken w/ basmati rice, baby corn, and mangetout) and now I am settled the fuck in for the night. Cheers.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Since I write/talk about my ridiculous life all the time anyway, and am way too prone to getting absurdly busy/distracted to send out lengthy updates and detailed emails to all my friends back home with any sort of regularity, I figured it'd be a good idea to start (and hopefully keep up with) a blog to document the more interesting experiences I have over here. The internet connection here is spotty at best, so bear with me.

I left the United States at 10:25pm on March 25, 2009. As always, my perception of time - and the amount I had of it - was off, which meant that I spent the hours leading up to my departure leisurely doing my radio show, saying goodbye to Matt, and buying a rucksack, then upon noticing the time, growing more and more frantic as I attempted to pack my entire life into a brown suitcase, matching tote bag, and the aforementioned rucksack. This was not going well at all until Kelly showed up, gently forced me to remove about a dozen of the band shirts I'd been desperately trying to shove into any remaining pocket of space, and generally calmed me down. Diana swung by, I doled out my remaining booze (there was no way I was leaving that for my now-ex roommates - or for my dad), spun into panic mode over last minute complications, then finally managed to say my goodbyes, drop them off, and sped like mad down to my granddad's house. Looked up my flight info while I was there then hauled ass to Newark International. Breezed through security then unexpectedly ran into Evan and Katie in the waiting area - somehow I'd booked myself on the same plane that the Drexel group flight was on without realizing it, which was a bit ironic since I almost always vehemently despise flying with people and had done my best to avoid dong so. I sent out a ton of goodbye texts, gave G a call, then turned off my phone for good. The flight was about 6.5 hours, which I spent watching movies (Doubt, Choke) instead of sleeping (terrible decision) and the on-flight meal they served was absolutely adorable. Fly Virgin Atlantic - they hook it up.

Upon our arrival, we waffled around the airport for a bit before being collected by someone from the school and deposited onto a double decker bus. Evan and I snagged seats at the very front of the top deck and settled in to check out the scenery. My first impression of England was, well, that it's green. For a highly-developed, densely-populated island nation and to my immense delight, the Brits have managed to maintain a wonderful amount of forest, field, and park space. We're living in a house right across the street from Hyde Park, actually. The place I'm staying is in the South Kensington/Chelsea area, which is super nice and super expensive. Everything looks the same, buildings/shops-wise, so it's a given that I've already managed to get lost a few times. I' in a room with Jess, Rock, and Jo, and everyone from Drexel is in the same flat, which is on the goddamn 5th floor and has a bunch of bedrooms, a couple bathrooms, a little kitchen, and a living room/dining room area. Once everyone arrived, unpacked, and had a chance to catch our breath, we went out en masse to explore our surroundings and change our worthless American dollars into distressingly-expensive pounds. Jess, Jo, Katie and I went to a pub, where I made the first of many unpleasant realizations - pub food sucks, and while most pubs don't card, this particular pub did, and I'd left my ID at the dorm. At least our waiter was a cute Pole with a nice smile and plenty of beer suggestions. After that, we came back and had the first of about a billion "orientation" meetings and were led around like a bunch of schoolchildren on a field trip by our infallibly perky Resident Adviser type. I really dislike the "stick together!" mentality that a lot of the kids here already have; I didn't come here to make new BFFS with a bunch of kids from school, I came here to go out on my own and explore. I don't mind hanging out with the Drexel kids, and am of course already tight with Jess, Rock, Jo and Kevin so it's a given that we'll all hang out; I just feel like a goober walking around in a big seething mass of confused, loud Americans. Throughout all of my travels, I have never been so conscious of my accent; I feel like I sound like a Southerner or something, since all the Brits talk at hyperspeed.

So last night, galloch, Dornenreich, Mely and Fen were playing the Underworld, and I'd gotten tickets months ago. I took a cab over 'cause I don't have the subway figured out yet and wasn't sure when the show was actually starting; it said that doors were at 7pm, but I'm ued to being "punktual" at Philly shows, and wasn't about to show up late to this one. Sadly, Fen went on first so I mised them anyway, but Mely was decent, and Dornenreich were great! It was really strange to walk around a packed metal show and not know at least a half dozen people - that's what made me realize just how far away from home I am, but was comforting too. Everyone there looked familiar, because metalheads everywhere tend to look more or less the same. The only visible differences were that there was a bit more of a "gothy" vibe to some of the attire, there were more chicks (generally sporting said gothy attire), and a LOT of the dudes were, well, really, reeeeeally hot! I nearly broke my neck checking some of those lads out. Even better, I ran into my friend Louise from Terrorizer right before Agalloch, so we got to catch up then rock out during their set. I'm probably going to be interning/blogging for them, and may be traveling with Louise and her counterpart James to Roadburn next month. She's the best. Agalloch are PERFECT live, by the way - absolutely untouchable. They played a lot off Pale Folklore and the newer one, but everything sounded amazing. This was their first London show ever, and they played for 65 minutes! I finally found Aled too, as soon as Agalloch were done being amazing and most of the crowd had cleared out. Had a nice chat with him and promised to come up and visit Wales soon, then peaced out and headed to the subway, which I decided was worth wrangling since the show has finished at 11pm. The London Tube/Underground is just like the NYC system, which means it's easy as pie to navigate if you've got half a brain and can read a color-coded map. A few minutes before my train came, this wobbly, incohrent old man came up and started wheezing at me. I assumed he was just another homeless dude an told him I didn't have any British money, but he shook his head in irritation and snapped that he didn't want money, he wanted to get to Highgate. Apparently in the UK, homeless people beg for directions, not change? I told him I wasn't local and couldn't help him, to which he replied "I'm as sick as a donkey at sea!" which was an interesting way to end the conversation. He was right up close to my face and was starting to freak me out a bit, so I backed away and ignored him. He tottered off to ask a few other peole, then came back around to me and got right up in my face - not okay, so I started yelling "I'M FROM FUCKIN' PHILLY MAN, I DON'T KNOW WHERE YOU'RE TRYNA GO" exaggerating my accent a bit so he'd believe me. Someone finally came up and tried to help him with the map; in the meantime, some absolutely gorgeous boy in an overcoat had come and stood between the old man and I, and started talking to me. Turns out he and his friends were from Brazil and were passing through London on a European vacation. They got off a few stops before me, and the lovely one leaned in and gave me a kiss on the cheek as he got up to leave. Damn suave non-Americans. Came back, talked to Rock for awhile, then finally crashed - I'd been up since 10am on Wednesday, so I was a zombie by then.

Today, my room woke up late and had to rush down to one of the school buildings for another orientation session. Rock and I ended up getting there 20 minutes late because we had no idea where we were going, neither of us have phones, and our two roommates decided not to wait for us, so it took awhile to find our way over there. Got orientated, then after that I went grocery shopping for necessities (i.e. meat, rice, fruit and Nutella), somehow got dreadfully lost, and ended up taking a cab back. I think we're going to go ride the buses around and see the city a bit before dinner and, I'm sure, drinks. Everyone's going nuts with the booze already - Jess and Jo got in at 5am last night. I'm not too impressed with the alcohol selection over here yet, so we'll see how long I can make it 'til Whiskey Month in Scotland!