March 2009


The maid asked me if I’m the only one in Hampstead, because the small kitchen was so clean she didn’t need to clean it! Yes, its certainly different, now.

No one shouting right outside my door at 3 in the morning, no sounds of the sink running from the room next door, none of Richard or Chandan’s (american) music floating in through the window or door, no Frankie/Fran/anyone else waking me up in the middle of nap (my naps are self-destructive), no beer drinking/music playing in the smaller kitchen, no porno updates in the larger kitchen (excpet a few stray posters Tina and I put up), space available in the fridge of the larger kitchen! Essentially, signs of people having half-way moved out. There are definitely people ustairs since I can still hear feet thumping but its essentially…much quieter around me. I know people living in adjacent buildings, but without everyone revising, its mostly to be a quiet April.

I do hope to travel though. Planning a two-day trip to Bath and Stratford later on in the month.

Anyone know anyone in Edinburgh or Ireland who can host visitors for a weekend, by the way?

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in whom I’m interested. (correct grammar? I hate structuring my sentences like this)

Samay, Aruba Red, Nila Raja, Nitin Sawhney and Prem Joshua, although the last two aren’t so much new to the world as they are to me.

Samay, a new Indian fusion band from a Yorkshire barn, played at the Southbank Centre last night. Usually I am skeptical about free events because they don’t necessarily attract top performers, but the artist-in-residence who chose this weekend’s program chose well. I’ve rarely heard better collaboration of genres from Asian, European, Caribbean music. With its members hailing from India (second-generation AsianBritish), Spain and Italy, they seemed to understand each others styles of music, not just their own.

Next weekend, a weekend of an Indian fusion music festival at the Centre, and London’s First Chocolate Festival, both at the Centre.

I don’t know how I can part with London…except that it’s lacking Parth.

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No longer is the keffieyh just a symbol of Palestinian solidarity, but its become a part of London fashion. I think. I just seem to see a lot of Londoners wearing the scarf around the neck, and I assume that because they don’t look Arab, its not a political statement. But if I’m wrong, then a lot of Londoners wear the scarf as a political statement. Either way, it’s interesting. Wikipedia tells me that Topshop, a popular clothing store in the UK, sells them. (Its like an upscale Forever 21 selling it.)

Here, I thought cider was a female alternative to beer. No matter how many pubs I go to or long I stay in London, I can’t think of beer as anything but hops-juice. Cider is cheap, cheaper than cocktails at 2.50 a shot, and “sickly sweet,” as Rhodri called it. I went to Hampstead bar with Frankie, Rhodri, and Lauren and all of them rejected the remaining of my half-pint. (Don’t laugh at me for drinking half-pints.) Now, I am wondering if its somehow because we’re American, but it is on tap. Only now I realized that I don’t know any other students who drink cider, and I wonder what character it represents. Drinks do tell a lot about a person, of course, and I wonder how other people see it.

At borough market near London Bridge, a wonderful food market running from Thursday-Sunday, I think, they sell warm, cider. I almost bought some but realized it wasn’t the cider we normally drink.

The papers say that Brown wants to raise the price of alcohol because the Brits like to binge. Economics 101, price elasticity of alcohol…won’t it just make Londoners financially worse off? I haven’t really been part of the London where people binge, but Rhodri can pack liters without any trouble. I, on the other hand, can’t even do half a pint.

Packaged food and buses in London are completely separate ideas connected only their geographical proximity. As in, there’s a bus-stand outside of Sainsbury’s and these thoughts always occur to me one after another.

Junot Diaz warned writers that their novels may sound too biographical and that to create distance in your characters, imagine them with deformity. Living in London is like seeing a warped version of America. I expect a biography, a continuation with the reality I am familiar with except I see it through a warped mirror, similar to Diaz’s deformity. There’s distance between these two realities.

It’s not just the frenchified aubergine and courgettes, but the slight warpedness of fast-food. The McDonaolds looks positively saintly but the same problems in nutrition arise from their packaged foods. Indeed, they are packaged very well at Sainsbury’s with affirmations that they contribute to your daily nutrition needs, organic, made with fresh ingredients but also convenient.

Sometimes they get it quite right like the fresh sandwiches in McLaughn library made with actually fresh ingredients and few preservatives.

But other packaged food, “chicken tikki msala for 2,” just seem really dubious. I wonder how healthy those packets really are. Usually they use more oils and preservatives. While S does sell some fresh vegetables, there isn’t much middle ground between completely packaged and completely bare. (The have one type of SHIT veggie burger.) They have one bin of frozen veggies, but loads of frozen chips.

It surprised me that there is little variety, but I realized that the UK’s a lot smaller and must have fewer food producers. Although grocery brand names do have a place on the shelves of Kroger and Genuardis, it’s bizarre when its the dominant brand. It’s been really hard grocery shopping because I’ve relied on stir-fry from frozen veggies and really delicious garden burgers.

Am I so lame to talk about grocery habits? Well, bear with me, or just skip this entry, because the next part’s a rant about buses.

When I first came to London in 1996, I was in love with doubledeckers. I had my own mini model at home that I’d play with and dream until I could ride them again. The second time around, they are less impressive but its cathartic to ride in a quiet nightbus home all the way from Oxford street to Hampstead, seeing all the familiar streets empty at night. And on the weekends when the Jubilee is down, a free tour sitting on the upper level.

The buses are mostly clean and friendly. But they suck during rush-hour. Roads are given an additional bus lane so they won’t be stuck in traffic, but I’ve had three buses refuse to let passengers on because they dont think it’s enough room.

AHHHH!! When it’s cold and windy and you have a shit load of groceries and the buses only come every 10 minutes, that’s at least 20 minutes of waiting. I always contemplate walking back home because its only a half an hour walk, but every time I start walking home, my bus inevitably goes past me before I’ve reached the nearest bus stop.

No, I am still in love with buses. Except I walk to the station instead of take the bus because I am more impatient to wait than walk. But when I do take the bus, and can enjoy a long ride like I used to in a car, I fall in love with the double deckers again.