Category Archives: Blog

File #14: Irn Bru

Hi-ho readers,

Beware: long letter ahead. Monday and Tuesday heralded finals, so nothing too exciting there. Although I have found my new Regular Place at Caffe Forum on Gloucester Road. They give free croissants to the first 100 customers, so needless to say I will be there a lot.

Tuesday night I finally finished ALL of my work and so we went out to the discounted student night at XOYO, which was underwhelming. I did eat a very good falafel wrap far too quickly afterward, however. Wednesday morning was spent lazing about as a reward. I am a lapsed Catholic (read: largely a non-believer) but still greatly enjoy the ritual of Mass (perhaps because I no longer am forced to attend). So for Ash Wednesday, I felt like going to a service. London is predominantly and unsurprisingly Anglican, so I figured I’d go all out and attend the evensong service at Westminster Abbey. I cannot being to describe how lovely it was. I wanted to sit in the quire but was content with the front row next to the altar. Westminster Abbey is a friendly place — they invited all who received Communion in their own church to do so (so I did), and I also was able to get ashes. The music and the acoustics floored me, and it was funny how the rituals of Mass made me feel at home. It’s not so different from ours. I’m writing a poem about the experience (the first I’ve written in a while!).

It was early to bed Wednesday night because on Thursday morning I left for my much anticipated Edinburgh trip! I left around 6 AM from my flat and went to Kings Cross Station. I saw the famous Platform 9 3/4 (complete with cart trolley shoved in the wall) but had no one to take my picture because I was traveling alone! Depressing, really. My train left at 7:30 and arrived at Edinburgh Waverley Station around 12:30. Maryam, my friend from Wheaton and Emerson House, picked me up and we went and dropped my stuff off at Zach’s (also from Wheaton) flat. We went to lunch (at which I ate my first bit of haggis, which I liked?) and I got a good tour of the city. We were chattering away the whole time even though it’s only been two months since we’ve seen each other. There’s always so many funny stories to trade with Maryam. I think we see a lot of the same humor in things. Edinburgh is really a quaint, cobbled, beautiful place. Perhaps I felt more fondly toward it because I was on vacation, but it was such a relief to be there, in a city of 500,000. London becomes daunting at times, even though my setting for most of the time feels more like a neighborhood than anything else. Regardless: I really like Edinburgh.

We headed down to Scottish Parliament (where Zach works) around 5 to pick him up. I made a huge fuss when he came out of the building and it was SO good to see him. I saw him briefly in December, and July in Albany before that, but it was like a wave of relief washed over me. Familiar faces are so comforting when you’ve felt a little bit in a sea of new ones. We briefly went back to Zach’s flat, and the Tesco around the corner. We bought ibuprofen (because my ear really started hurting — FORESHADOWING) and Irn Bru, a strange orange cream soda which is “Scotland’s Other National Drink” (the first is of course Scotch whisky).

After this, we went to a lecture hosted by the Edinburgh University Students’ Association by Linda Bellos, a feminist and a founder of Black History Month. The lecture was about LGBT History Month, which is obviously something important to me. It was really interesting and I was so glad to get back into feminist culture, which I haven’t really been involved with here, sadly enough. It got a little wild when this women raised her hand (normal, the lecture fostered discussion) and starting talking and slowly revealed herself as a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist, aka someone who is stuck in second wave ideology). Suddenly someone who was running the lecture stood up and announced their zero tolerance policy and a security guard essentially ESCORTED HER OUT. I’ve never seen anything like that at a university sponsored event…actually let alone anywhere. That, plus the free wine the event was giving out, made it a very exciting night. What I liked most about the evening (besides the wine) happened after it ended. People shuffled out, and the three of us stuck around enjoying our wine and processing the lecture. The other students still around came and sat at our table and talked with us too. We had a great conversation and then the night staff kicked us out so we went to a local bar, The Brass Monkey, and had more drinks and conversation until we were feeling tired, around 1 AM. I went to bed happy, looking forward to the next day. Then…something interesting happened.

Around 3 AM, I woke up in excruciating pain. Remember the briefly aforementioned ear pain? It got way, way worse. Full disclosure: I started crying and did the only thing I know how to do, which is call my mother. She and my dad pulled some research on clinics near me and then later in the night after ibuprofen wasn’t working my dad suggested that I call the Scottish NHS’ off-hours line, which I proceeded to do. The most wonderful Scottish woman asked all about how I was feeling. She then said “alright, I’ve made you an appointment at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for 7 AM.” I was a little freaked out because it’s a large hospital, but I took the appointment and booked a cab and headed out. Not before freaking out a sleeping Zach on the couch by saying “hi, I’m going to the hospital, I’ll be right back.” Probably not the best word choice, but off I went. Everything was empty because of how early it was, including the off-hours clinic. I walked in and three Scottish guys laughing at reception looked up at me and said “are you Emily? Do you have the 7 o’clock?” I said yes and yes, even though the hearing in my right ear at that point was seriously limited. I got a doctor in approximately 30 seconds, and he confirmed that I did indeed have an acute ear canal infection, just like I did last year (this leads me to believe that something is probably Up with my ears and I should probably see an ENT when I go back to the States). He gave me some ear drops and I dropped a not-subtle hint that I’d appreciate a course of oral antibiotics just to ensure it went away. He said “oh, sure!!!” very excitedly and also brought back a huge box of codeine pills — “just in case.” He said that he hoped I felt better, and I, expecting a co-pay, was confused. I said, hesitantly, “uh…am I all set?” and he said “oh, yeah, they’ll book you a cab back home at reception. Bye!” IT WAS ALL FREE. So I just…went home. I felt like I was robbing the hospital. So the biggest shout-out of this letter goes out to the NHS, because they are truly shout-out-worthy.

I went home and was locked out of Zach’s flat for several hours because there was some confusion and then he had to go to a final, but I had a nice big breakfast at a cafe around the corner from his place, and then Maryam let me sleep in her bed at her dorm for a couple of hours. Then I felt GREAT, and was ready to take on the rest of the day, which entailed picking up GRACE from the airport. Grace is one of my best friends in this life (also from Wheaton), and I had not seen her since May, when sophomore year ended, because she went to Bhutan and I didn’t see her this summer or winter. Our reunion was spectacular. We all made dinner together in Zach’s kitchen and we were sitting and scarfing down rice and Grace commented that it could be the same in Norton, or Thimphu, or Edinburgh — sitting around a table and eating home-cooked food with good friends never gets old. It’s true. I so relished the ability this weekend to be stupid around non-judgmental friends that I value so much. Then we went to a couple of bars in Edinburgh, bopping about town until will all got some well deserved rest.

On Saturday morning Zach and I thought it was only right that Grace experienced a proper fry-up, but one that we made ourselves. We’ve always loved cooking together, so it was nice to blabber and listen to music and fry bacon. It was all very good and we sat gorging ourselves and decimating the groceries we had only just purchased. And what do you do after a proper Scottish breakfast? Tour Scottish Parliament, and climb Arthur’s Seat. Scottish Parliament looks like it doesn’t belong in Edinburgh — I guess that’s because it’s so recent. But it was an awesome building to tour, and I felt very cool because we got special visiting passes because Zach works there. Then we were off to walk — but really hike — Arthur’s Seat. I didn’t think to bring proper climbing shoes, so my regular black riding boots somehow got me up the mountain. I was laughing all the way up, and the climb was so worth the view and the muddy hands. After we got down Zach and Grace wanted to give me a taste of the Himalayan cuisine they so enjoyed last semester, so we went to a cafe specializing in the food of the region and we ate momos, which are traditional dumplings. They were so good and perfect for a trio of famished travelers.

One of my favorite parts of this weekend was probably pushing the two couches in Zach’s living room together and getting under fuzzy blankets with Zach and Grace with bowls of spaghetti, sleepily reminiscing and watching silly videos, before we went out for the evening. Nothing ever changes. Before I arrived Zach promised me that he would give me my first queer bar experience in the Pink Triangle neighborhood of Edinburgh, so Maryam came over and we set out. I won’t get into the nitty gritty but it was interesting. Fun is a better word. I had fun. I found a friend that went to Wheaton my first-year but transferred out and she was excited to see me on her turf (specifically a gay bar). This was definitely our latest night, for several reasons, so we took a cab home and all passed out.

Getting up on Sunday was tough but Zach, Grace, and I dragged ourselves out for a final brunch, which was lovely, and then we went to the National Gallery of Scotland as my final piece of culture. It’s a smaller museum (smaller than London ones at least) but I really liked it. I felt like I could actually see everything in it. We met up with Maryam (and Jordana, also from Wheaton/Emerson) for coffee before I took the train back to Kings Cross at 5. It was a wistful ride home (before I fell dead asleep).

I was so happy to see my friends. It was a good break, and I feel absolutely re-energized and ready to start my new class (British Cinema and Society) and my new internship (on Tuesday). Thank you so much to Zach and Maryam for their hospitality, and Grace, I can’t wait to see you on Tuesday when you arrive in London!

No Things I Read and Liked This Week — I think this was enough.

And that’s the week that was!
Emily

P.S. word of the week: bairn.

File #13: Coffee

Hi-ho readers,

Sorry for the delay — Sunday night was spent polishing off a grand total of 22 pages for two final papers. Schoolwork took precedence. Aren’t you proud, Mom and Dad?

I have horrible news. Well, horrible news for me. I truly cannot tolerate coffee in the way that I was able to before. I was having a lot of busy mornings and late nights this week, so at certain points this week I decided to get a latte. Biiiiiiig mistake. I had the jitters for most of this week during the day, and had so much trouble falling asleep at night that I almost overslept for two different events (on Wednesday and Friday). I made record time on my school route though: six minutes. I am a proficient speed-walker. Although in a panic I did try to run down my street and had shin pain for longer than I care to admit.

Apparently my professors take great joy in keeping me out of the library/my room to do homework, because I went on a field trip four out of five days this week. Monday was a walk around Westminster to look at different monuments to influential women in London history. And also…pelicans. My professor took us to St James Park for no reason other than to see if the colony of pelicans that lives there was out and about. They were. And they were terrifying. Thanks, Dr Atkinson. Highlight of the trip: her stopping us  in front of Westminster Abbey and saying “now, I’m going to pull over and get a coffee because I just…can’t.”

On Tuesday we went to the Imperial War Museum and while I didn’t get to see everything I want to, it’s a bit of a hike away. Maybe I’ll go back if I have an excuse to be in the neighborhood. Wednesday was a guided tour of filming locations in Southwark (pronounced suth-uk…now I understand why every town name in Massachusetts is pronounced so bizarrely) with my film class. I wanted to go through Borough Market (which we walked past) but our tour guide really had an agenda.

Thursday lacked a field trip but Friday we went back to the Museum of London, which I was confused by because that was our first field trip for the semester for my women’s studies class. Maybe my professor wanted to make things come full circle. We discovered that the book she wrote on suffragettes is sold in the gift shop. I really liked that class and she wants to have a reunion and take us all to tea before we leave in April, and honestly that would be great.

I have not left the room much this weekend because of work, but my dad made my Valentine’s Day the best one ever by sending me a Domino’s pizza. God bless him.

Anyway, here’s What I Reed and Liked This Week:
First of all — I’ve been listening to a lot of music to drown out the existential gloom that comes with paper-writing. Hush, the collaboration of Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma is excellent, as are the two volumes of Jazz Sebastien Bach by the Swingle Singers. I also listened to Grace by Jeff Buckley for the first time and a great album by Jose Gonzalez called Veneer.
Rookie’s “Call It In” (while it may be beyond my demographic, it’s still important)
The Atlantic’s “The Town That’s Building Life Around Sleep
The New Yorker’s “What I Imagine My Boyfriend’s Ex-Girlfriends Are Doing Right Now
Vox’s “27 fonts* (give or take) that explain your world
The Washington Post’s “Everything you ever wanted to know above love, in 25 maps and charts
and a poem I really love: “cutting greens” by Lucille Clifton

And that’s the week that was!
Emily

P.S. word of the week: rasher.

File #12: Master Chef (in training)

Hi-ho readers,
Things are becoming blurrier but I guess that’s what happens when you start getting used to a place. Places, events, etc. don’t seem as foreign any more. This is simultaneously comforting and a little sad. I do feel like I’m in a little bit of a crunch (we are coming upon the last week of regular classes before internships), and I guess being a student with deadlines can make you feel at home anywhere.

On Monday my women’s studies class went to the Guildhall Library to do research for our big essays that are due next Monday. I’m writing about the famous lesbian novelist Radclyffe Hall, how her book The Well of Loneliness promulgated the mannish lesbian stereotype, and how her being able to cross-dress was a privilege of her class. I didn’t have this coherent of a thesis until today…but the research at a Real Library (ours at the BU headquarters is…modest, to put it gently) helped. Then on Monday night my friend Caroline and I went to the Notting Hill Arts Club because we had heard about a bar night that was only playing the music of Kanye West. Sounds really fun, right? They made it seem that way because the Facebook event said tickets were sold out. We got there and only about ten people arrived during our stay. HUGE disappointment. I guess it comes with the territory of trying to go out on a Monday night. I sent a lot of sad Snapchat videos.

I’ve had a good deal of trouble sleeping this week so in the wee hours I have taken up doing The New York Times crossword. I am getting pretty good at the Monday. There are only so many free puzzles I can play, and apparently being a subscriber does not grant me the privilege of access. It’s becoming a problem. Crosswords really push all my puzzle buttons.

On Tuesday my women’s studies class went bonkers over the 2007 version of Persuasion with Sally Hawkins…it is so STRESSFUL. So much tension! I was on the edge of my seat and let out a few audible yelps. I really like that class. There’s been an easy camaraderie and I’ll be sad when it’s over. I kind of wish I had a traditional semester length course with my professor, Dr. Atkinson. She is extremely knowledgeable and has a British wit and her speaking voice sometimes reminds me of Alice’s from The Vicar of Dibley even in character they are polar opposites.

I also really like both of my professors (they alternate) for my film and TV class — Dr. Fanthome and Ms. Domaille, if it wasn’t clear. I feel like I talk a lot in that class. The level of participation varies from other students. I’ve really been enjoying the readings and am eager to share my thoughts but am afraid the other students are starting to regard me as a “swot” (British for “tryhard.”)

On Wednesday my friend Jillian (from Fairfield, of all places) and I went to a poetry slam in Whitechapel, at this place called Genesis Cinema. I haven’t been to a slam since the Bowery Poetry Club in New York closed in 2012 and it was so much fun! There was one American guy competing and it was like seeing a familiar face in a crowd. “Slam voice” (you know what I’m talking about) is something I’ll never get over but there was a distinct lack of it there. There was a group of American students who got randomly picked to judge and I found them drawing this on their whiteboard:

On Friday, on a walking tour with my women’s studies class, I saw a bit of London that I haven’t seen yet — Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace. I’d like to get down there again and explore. I really haven’t done a lot of touristy stuff.What I have been doing a lot of this week is cooking. I have a newfound ardor for the kitchen, which is weird, considering the years I thought myself incapable. I have been using ingredients I didn’t even know how to use. Yesterday I minced garlic. That is a skill I did not know was in my wheelhouse. I had a nice and slow grocery shopping trip on Saturday afternoon (after being bumrushed by a lot of New Zealanders on a pub crawl — apparently it was Waitangi Day, which I found out by asking a cop) This week I made roasted sweet potatoes (with cumin, pepper, olive oil), a cooked spinach and chickpea salad, but my triumph was breakfast this morning, inspired by Smitten Kitchen (the BEST recipe blog): The Crispy Egg.

Tell me you don’t want to eat that.In exciting news: I am officially booked for Edinburgh from February 19-22. I will be seeing Zach, Maryam, and GRACE who is meeting us there! Best spring break ever.

Things I Read and Liked This Week
BROUGHT TO YOU BY: Instapaper, the article aggregating site to which I have recently converted. I put everything in a folder for each week now and it may result in this section being a little longer…I read a lot of stuff.
The Hairpin’s “A Place Like Home: On Being Black and Punk” (which I read and LOVED — I’ve been following Pilot Viruet’s stuff on the Internet since I was but a Web-baby and this is really, really good.)
The New York Times’ Times Haiku (which I’ve read for a long time but is really a wonderful morsel of poetic coding)
The Washington Post’s “Haruki Murakami’s advice column is surrealist and sweet and so, well, Murakami
The Guardian’s “How do you grieve when you lose an internet friend?
The Hairpin’s “Limericks for Lost Online Dates
Fusion’s “This journalist used CAPS LOCK for an entire week
On the Media’s “Down the Wikipedia Rabbit Hole: The Game!” (if you know me at all, you know my passion for Wikipedia rabbit holes)
The New York Times’ “A University Recognizes a Third Gender: Neutral
Buzzfeed’s “How to Start Actually Replying to Your Damn Emails” (this is very real for me. I either reply in 20 minutes or two weeks)
Autostraddle’s “The Best Break-Up Advice You’ll Ever Get” (which is old but I re-discovered it this week and it’s still great)

And that’s the week that was. Write back.
Emily

P.S. word of the week (which I missed last week, sorry!): frippery.

File #11: Night at the Museum

Hi-ho readers,

Museums are really the place to be in London, and I’ve been finding that out in class and on my own.  On Monday my women’s studies professor took us to the Victoria and Albert (V&A) just because, justifying it by saying “the museum is a place full of beautiful objects.” And it is — I think it’s my favorite museum I’ve been to thus far. I could have spent hours more inside and I plan to because I live across the street!

I didn’t have class on Tuesday so I only left the apartment to get groceries (my arms are becoming super strong) but on Wednesday I made up for it by going to the Imperial College activities fair (disappointing, had nothing on Wheaton) and the Museum Late at the Science Museum, which was a lot of fun. Made more fun by the fact that they sold me cider. We went to a comedy/game show in their IMAX theatre and they had all their exhibits open and all sorts of things going on. On Thursday I went out to the pub (which was hopping for a Thursday?) and on Friday I had the whole day to myself so I took a looooong walk. It was supposed to be casual stroll but I ended up walking seven miles. I walked from the apartment to Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens, sat by the Princess Diana fountain, walked past some terrifying birds and the Orangery, walked through Notting Hill, then down to High Street Kensington. Then I took the CORRECT BUS HOME, which was really a milestone.
Then my friend Jillian and I went to the Late at the V&A which was great because it let me explore a little more of the museum. After, we went to the Imperial College Union bar with some of her friends (which is actually THREE BARS). They were playing weird YouTube videos on the walls, and I saw a guy vomit into his pint. Other than that, I had a jolly time and wobbled my way home pretty late.Then yesterday I went to Stonehenge on a trip with the school. I don’t know what I was expecting. It was awesome, but somehow smaller than I thought? It was very cold and windy and everyone had tears coming out of their eyes and snot going everywhere. The gift shop sold a lot of weird things included Stonehenge themed alcohol. Which I have come to expect from a lot of places. Then we went to Winchester, a city with Roman and medieval history. We went to a pub and walked along the river and through a street market and went into the Great Hall to learn about some of the medieval history. It was a good day and I also liked riding on the coach bus through the countryside listening to Elliot Smith because it reminded me of traveling in high school.
Anyway, here’s:
Things I Read and Liked This Week
Hyperallergic’s “Will Paint Chickens for Eggs
The Toast’s “All the Feelings It Is Possible to Feel, Indexed
Mental Floss’ “Why Are Penguins So Good at Walking on Ice?
The Atlantic’s “In Cuba, Maps Make a Comeback
Buzzfeed’s “The Whiteness of ‘Public Radio Voice’” (I heard this on the radio but it’s still a good read)
Saved by the Bell hooks. Need I say more?
That’s all from me this week!
Emily

File #10: PoundTown

Hi-ho readers,

London week two was eventful. I only have afternoon classes right now so I told myself that I’d wake up in the morning and do stuff before walking to school, but I only managed to haul out of bed on Monday. I took myself to breakfast at Muriel’s Kitchen next to the train station and had a mean eggs Benedict, bought stamps (tell me if you want a postcard) and then went to school, where I had the first session of my London women’s history elective. My professor seems to be quite fond of field trips, so on Monday we went to the Museum of London and on Tuesday we went to the National Portrait Gallery. Tomorrow we’re doing a guided walk around Westminster. I’m happy to be getting to do some touristy stuff with the class. It’s also embarrassing that I haven’t really been to other museums considering I live across the street from the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, and the V & A. Pictured below are some things I saw at the museums.

On Wednesday, with my contemporary British film and television class, we went to see Made in Dagenham on the West End (we watched part of the movie on which the musical is based). The plot revolves around the Ford machinists’ strike of 1968, at the plants in Dagenham and Liverpool. The women working sewing car seats were downgraded to an unskilled pay grade (and their male counterparts at the plants were not), and their outrage led to the eventual implementation of the Equal Pay Act of 1970. It was a really fun musical — I laughed the hardest at a number called “This Is America” (a representative from Ford US comes to town) — in which he sings atop a tank wearing a cowboy hat while blond women scantily clad in camoflauge hold assault rifles. Go team. Everyone was very talented and I was sad to find out (while I was Googling a plot summary for this!) to learn that it’ll be closing in April. Now the mug that I bought (that says “BUSY WOMAN” after the opening number) is COLLECTOR’S EDITION. Also, this is a culture to which I have not been privy, but drinks at theaters are expensive. A mistake I won’t be making again. Oy.

What also happened Wednesday night is that my throat started hurting so much that I couldn’t swallow. Luckily I just had one class on Thursday and nothing on Friday so I was mainly able to sleep it off and doctor it with lemony tea. Still feeling it now though. A lot of people in my building have had the same thing. Yikes.Yesterday was my roommate’s birthday and her friend came in from Twickenham so we went to the Portobello Road Market. I think I’d like to go back by myself just to weave in and out of all of the little booths. I tend to spend a long time in street markets and it’s a better thing to do by yourself. So many antiques and street foods! The funniest thing that happened while we were out happened when we went to Poundland (the UK Dollar Tree) and my roommate didn’t know what it was called so she called it “Pound Town.” I laughed way harder and longer than was necessary.

After, we went to an Italian restaurant in our neighborhood for dinner and then I had a funny misunderstanding in Tesco (British Mishap #1). Apparently the “how are you?” we’re used to in the States translates to “are you okay?” here. I said hi to the cashier but my voice is really hoarse and quiet because I’ve been coughing a lot. So he said “are you okay?” as is customary, which I didn’t know, so I was like “yeah! sorry! I’ve just had a cold” and he did a fantastic slow blink at me (shouts out to Kate). It was really remarkable. I felt like a jackass.Anyway, then we did what hip youths do and tried to find a club to go to in Shoreditch (trendy east London). In our fruitless attempts I discovered that I had to go to the bathroom, more than I ever have in my sorry young life. It was a little after 12:30, and this is when the Tube closes for the night. The nearest public bathroom was, of course, in the Tube, so I booked it to the station (wobbily) and encountered gates being shut and people rushing. I ran up to the woman working:

Woman: “ARE YOU GOING NORTHBOUND OR SOUTHBOUND?”
Me:  “NEITHER IS THERE A BATHROOM IN HERE”
Woman: “Sorry love, no.”
Me: “Okay, thanks anyway!” (staring at her with dead eyes while rapidly doing the pee dance)

She apparently took pity on me because, like in a damn movie, she looked side to side a couple of times, silently beckoned, then opened a SECRET DOOR IN THE WALL to the staff bathroom. She then gave me the “wrap it up!” gesture and I think I may never be that happy to pee ever again. When I walked out I was full of so much gratitude that I rested my hand on her shoulder for a moment, looked kindly into her eyes and said “thank you.” I wonder how many drunk idiots she has to deal with on the last nightly Tube.

We finally went to this place called Floripa (no, not a typo) with a TEN POUND COVER where they played pretty much American music and it was nothing horribly exciting. But we ended up staying until very late and I got to take my first night bus home…which was tamer than expected. So now it’s today and my feet hurt.

This week calmed down a little so I had time to do…

Things I Read and Liked This Week!
two great interviews with Björk, who just released a new album:
The New York Times’ T Magazine’s “The Peculiar Genius of Björk
Pitchfork’s “The Invisible Woman: a Conversation with Björk
The New York Times’ “Instagram’s Graveyard Shift
The Atlantic’s “‘V’ Is for Very” (about abbreviating “very” to “v”)
A choose your own adventure game on Twitter from Terence Eden (unknown to me but this is very cool)
The New Yorker’s wildly funny “Let’s Get Drinks
a poem I liked this week, “Francesca” by Ezra Pound (the opening line is so so good)

That’s all from me this week!
Emily

P.S. PHRASE of the week: “thinking man’s crumpet.”

File #9: Scooters

Hi-ho readers,

Week one: accomplished. I feel at home because 1. don’t get lost walking to class anymore, 2. have switched from coffee to tea, and 3. someone asked ME for directions today. I think I cracked the code on How to Look Like You Live in London: wear all black, carry orange Sainsbury’s bag, have earbuds in (what they didn’t know was that I was listening to American podcasts…I guess I’m always a Patriot, never a Tory).

This week has been so busy. The iPhone automatically tracks how many steps you take while the phone’s in your bag or pocket, and I’ve been averaging four miles a day. I’m not really sure how to build up my arms as much as my legs…maybe I’ll start doing pull-ups on the Tube…or carrying groceries back from the store. I’ve had to go three different times this week to pick up different things. But the good news is: I’m actually cooking! Mom and/or Dad, if you’re reading this, I want you to know that I accept your awe and pride and will be making your a lot of couscous with various sautéed vegetables upon my return home. Mushrooms are cheap and delicious.

Okay, observation that needs to be made at the start: every child in the City of Westminster, ruled by her Royal Highness, is riding a goddamn scooter. ALL OF THEM. EVERYWHERE. Didn’t America do this, like, fifteen years ago? They’re like Razor Scooter 2.0.

Hey, kid. I’m going to trip over you if you don’t stop bobbing and weaving in front of me IMMEDIATELY. YOUR TRENDS ARE BAFFLING.

Anyway…since I last wrote you…last Tuesday we went on a boat ride on the Thames past all of the big touristy sights all the way to Greenwich, where the Royal Observatory and Prime Meridian are. I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t pay eight pounds to go straddle it. Worth the picture.

Wednesday was the last day of orientation so I took the chance to familiarize myself with our neighborhood, South Kensington. It is delightfully close to the Tube stop which has three different lines, and there are many places to eat and little shops. I went into a stationery store and the clerk asked if I needed any help and I said I was just browsing, and joked that I was “new in the neighborhood.” He then proceeded to tell me a short history of the store! People have really been nothing but friendly. I guess it’s the honeymoon stage talking. And as for the Francophone aspect of the neighborhood…I went into one of two French bookstores on my block and the woman at the counter said “bonsoir!” and I briefly panicked because I forgot what that meant (désolé, M. Shee…). It means “good evening,” so I responded in kind, and then got the hell out of there because I was afraid the conversation would continue. This wall art kind of thing is right across the street from me, and I thought it was kind of poignant and evoked Talking Heads…
Speaking of the Tube, I think I’ve mastered it to a relative degree at this point. However complex it is, it seems like it’s relatively easy to navigate. I suppose London has had a long time to perfect it.On Thursday I had my first class which is British Film and Television Since 1960. This course and my other (London Women’s History from Aphra Behn to the Blitz) are four hours long twice a week because they only have nine sessions. For the rest of the semester, we intern and have one elective class once a week, but I’ll get to that later. Even thought the class was long, it was really interesting, and about Wheaton-sized (16 students). My interested was piqued because this sessions was about British comedy so I got to be the only one raising their hand when she asked if we’d seen shows like Blackadder and Little Britain (thanks, Mom and Dad). I think I also shocked my professor when we were watching a clip from an older show and this guy came up on screen and I said “is he from Keeping Up Appearances?) and she responded with a very enthusiastic nod. I don’t think anyone else had a clue what I was talking about. After class on Thursday we went to this place called Notting Hill Arts Club at which three bands played and drinks were very expensive. Drinks tend to be expensive which is a bummer but probably good because it means I don’t get more than one…or two.

On Friday I had my internship interview at Irresistible Films and I got the job! I’ll be a Production Assistant for them but will be doing work in several different departments. They said they want to give me the most exposure possible. The company is in Shoreditch, which according to the guy who interviewed me is “London’s Brooklyn.” There was a lot of cool street art, which I looked at while I was walking around because I was way too early (and overdressed) for my interview. Typical. My favorite one is pictured below. They have a lot of prestigious clients like Disney, Microsoft, Yahoo, Warner Brothers, BBC…but more importantly they have an office cat.
 
On Saturday Sara (my roommate) and I went up to Camden Market, which is a hoot. And I had maybe the best falafel of my life, no disrespect to East Side Pockets in Providence. Then, at my dad’s suggestions, we walked along Regent’s Canal which runs from Camden Town through Primrose Hill past the London Zoo and all the way into Regent’s Park. It was a really nice walk but my feet were really tired because I chose fashion over orthopedics (read: bad shoes).
There were seriously birds EVERYWHERE at the Boating Pond in the park…it was almost threatening. There’s a picture somewhere of me chasing them in 2008…I’ll have to ask my dad to find it. Then last night we went and did some clubby things and all got a bit silly, which made today perfect for sleeping in and doing chores. 

Anyway, here’s Things I Read and Liked This Week (Although I Don’t Know How I Had Time)
The Hairpin’s “All of Mark Ruffalo’s On-Screen Kisses, from Worst to Best” (I totally agree with the top ranking)
Slate’s “Stop Putting Your Email Address in Your Email Signature
The Science of Us’ “A Guy Outsource His Anxiety to a Spambot“AND: THE ALBUM TRAILER FOR SUFJAN STEVENS’ NEW ALBUM CARRIE AND LOWELL WHICH COMES OUT ON MY BIRTHDAY

Also, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth which I have been reading on the Tube and it’s set in London and very very good.

That’s all from me this week! I know this was a long one but I’m glad you stuck with me if you’re at this point.
Emily

P.S. word of the week: cheers!

File #8: Jet Lag

Hi-ho readers,

I am actually in London and it has not really hit me yet. I flew out of JFK on a group flight with a lot of other students in my program on Saturday night, and after a two hour delay during which we sat on the tarmac, we took off. You never want to hear the pilot say “I’ve never seen this problem before” when talking about a mechanical issue. I think the girl sitting next to me almost lost her lunch. I had my first legal drink on the plane (terrible white wine) and watched The Skeleton Twins. My dad was kind enough to have a car ready to pick me up at Heathrow (which is very nice and also HUGE) so I arrived at my building, Sorbonne House, in South Kensington at 10AM yesterday. This is my room. We look over the courtyard of the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle, and today I could hear the kids having recess — I constantly feel like I’m in a Jean-Luc Godard movie.

Room with roommate Sara pictured (she goes to University of San Francisco and studies architecture and is lovely and very funny), this is our own bathroom (with tiny shower that will require acrobatics to shave my legs),

and this is the kitchen that we share with ten other people. The building has a couple of kitchens, which is nice. I made lunch for myself today which is huge because I never cook.

Yesterday was very tiring, clearly. We went on a walking tour of the neighborhood with our RA, Ariel. I’m excited to get to know South Ken and have my local places. There’s a little bookstore that I wanted to stop in but we had to keep moving. I live across the street from the Natural History Museum (pictured below) and a stone’s throw away from the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, Royal Albert Hall, and Hyde Park. It is, as my dad said, “posh.” I went to Sainsbury’s with a bunch of people to get a bath towel and groceries among other things and my hands were shaking for HOURS after carrying my two giant bags home after a fifteen-minute walk. I need to work out. I immediately passed out at 6 PM and slept on and off until this morning. God bless. It’s a wonder I did because my bed is so uncomfortable.

We had orientation today at the Royal Geographical Society and after I had a quick meeting about my internship interview on Friday at BU London Headquarters. Then we went to a proper pub (The Hereford Arms) where I had fish and chips and a pint. I felt it was only proper. Complete with mushy peas!

We have more orientation for the next two days and then I start class on Thursday. I can’t wait to tell you all about it! No Things I Read and Liked This Week because I have simply been too busy and I think I am interesting enough. Shout out to Alex and Kate because we hung out in New Haven last Tuesday and it was a jolly good time.

That’s all from me this week!
Emily

P.S. word of the week: Saiiiiinsburrrrry’s

Beauty-mongering

Someone asked me tonight what beauty is. I thought for a minute and said, “beauty is quietly realizing that you will want to remember a moment later”. I think this is true — regardless of whether you actually remember it or not. I have taken to writing down these moments either right after or when it occurs to me long after.

A list, not complete or all-inclusive, of things I have deemed worthy of documentation:

  • wandering through the Beard and Weil Gallery by myself on a weekday
  • painting other people’s faces at the Den
  • the afterglow present while sorting the charitable donations from The Vagina Monologues
  • going into the woods for the first time
  • the confusing but ultimately pleasing sensation of waking up in someone else’s bed
  • the first day on which it is comfortable to sit outside and do one’s reading
  • being alone in the Chapel (and singing)
  • watching the moon while acutely aware of the damp street under me
  • sitting in Washington Square Park with ice cream in the late afternoon, feeling like part of a crowd
  • seeing the work of an artist you have long admired (Sol LeWitt)
  • going back to a familiar place to find it has not changed much (any number of places)
  • driving with the windows down (an oft-mentioned pleasure, but highly underrated)
  • biking with no destination in sight (post forthcoming)
  • taking delight in just looking at a large plate of Chicken-of-the-Woods at Outdoors House
  • dancing at a particularly funky concert and smiling at someone you like

As I said, I’d like to write more about the bike ride (and go biking again, but work is a cruel mistress). These are just some things I’ve thought of on a quiet Sunday evening, having finished my work for Monday’s classes and enjoying a cup of tea — better write that one down, too.

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having your own little corner – “be your own home”

Heretic Pride

I happened to catch the Teen Choice Awards on television last night, and it hit me hard for the first time that I am no longer a teenager. I didn’t know who any of the rising stars were; the popular music rang unfamiliar. I am culturally displaced. I don’t have the intense feelings that those in the crowd did — this was very clearly some of the stuff that made them tick, made their adrenaline surge.

Is it just the young who are entitled to these intense passions?

I thought about it when I was driving home from Stamford a couple of days ago. Most mornings, I drive my parents and sister to their train stations, sometimes in shifts. I offered to drive my mother all the way to work the other morning, just because I felt like I needed to drive. I turned my music on shuffle and heard the opening drums of one of my favorite songs, “Heretic Pride” from the album of the same title by the Mountain Goats, my favorite band.

It nearly drove me to tears. It is a song that can best be called a “persecution fantasy” (a phrase cribbed from the comic book liner notes of the album), but for many listening to it in a more abstract manner, such as myself, it tends to galvanize. I felt the footsteps of every person who had ever hurt me turn to water and roll off my shoulders. I rolled down the windows and yelled along, among the increasing numbers of people on the sidewalks of the Boston Post Road, which could have taken me anywhere had I stayed on it.

“And I feel so! proud! to be alive!/And I feel so! proud! when the reckoning arrives!” And I did. Is it just the young who are entitled to these intense passions. No. Although I am still young, I feel less like the teenagers stealing their first tastes of whiskey and more like someone who is beginning to have her first transformative experiences.

I do feel so proud to be alive. I have been relishing these wind-whipping drives because it is my favorite time to be alone, not fermenting into bitterness in my house. I play abrasive vocal music. I recite poetry. I have, a couple of times, practiced yodeling. I feel deliciously alone because I am constantly in motion.

I will miss these times at home. While I feel as if it is time to go back to school, there is something about this place that makes me feel so intensely. Maybe it’s because this is where I learned how. There is no song or sonnet for the shocks of poetry that run through me at any hour of the day. I laugh with delight at my breakfast eggs, my crossword, and my radio shows. The balmy clime of my lonely house is quiet, but I speak into the moist air.

I was forced into being a person of the morning this summer, for which I am ultimately grateful, but I swoon into my own thoughts when the sun goes down. At night I crack my toes in a number seeming auspicious (two left, two right), and wait for sleep, or thought’s intervention, or dawn. I concoct scenes in a cauldron, in which I miss people I’ve never met, in which I brush against lips and cheeks I have never touched. And these are mostly the times that words and whims and turns of phrase fit together, and the poems I like best are born.

And these vespertine activities seem oddly sensual to me. I would like to be sensual, in my new cropped T-shirts, lying in the emptying bathtub to the sounds of atmospheric guitars, but I am alright with being this strange, feeling monster most of the time.

If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,–
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
again the yellow drawn shades,–

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

“Danse Russe” – William Carlos Williams (1917)

I squint as I drift off to sleep, and the painted colors seem gray, and I think of you all reading my thoughts, and I am thankful for your continued presence.

photo 2
goodbye, Connecticut. I’ll see you in a spell.

April, come she will

2014-04-03 14.31.10

Wheaton is a less daunting place when the vernal afternoons hit. Hurried and fretful scurrying to class becomes lazy ambling; things will happen in their time. The Dimple fills as a vessel with wine. Sun-drunk smile creep onto the faces of those with a grassy expanse of a newfound nothing-to-do. Campus walkways are a veritable track, a slow parade — to see and be seen. Making twitching eye contact with the windows of Emerson is more often forgiven. We understand our motivations like crocuses trying to emerge. We are angry less. There are places to sit; there is cold beer to be had. We are impossibly free.