Well? Can ya?!
It's 10 am now, and after getting my bacon and egg sandwich, 2 large cups of coffee and NYTimes crossword out of the way (how swiftly i retire to my old routine), i will now embark on some random thoughts of my trip, with of course a photo or two for the benefit of Jeff Mensch and anyone with such bad eyesight as to not be offended by laughably pixelated photos.
Money: Icelandic money is even nicer looking than British money. All the coins have some form of sealife on them, a blowfish (or what i think is a blowfish) on the 100kr piece, a crab (make a necklace for your Cancerian friend!) on the 50, dolphins, eels, etc. The other thing about the Icelandic money: you sure need a lot of it to buy anything. The exchange is about 80kr for $1, and you need about 500kr to buy a beer, and close to 3000 to try the delicious whale steak. If you plan on visiting Iceland, pack a lunch.
Snyrtingar is a hilarious word at 6 in the morning.
comes from the Glasgow's Church of St. Mungo,
which is much older and more stunning
than Veterans Stadium.
This bit of pranksterism was found
just outside of Glasgow's diminutive
Modern Art museum, one of the few
we *didn't* visit.
People: It's not earth-shaking news to report that everybody hates Americans. The press thinks America is filled with right-wing lunatics. People, except for maybe Scotland, could be unfriendly to us. One stewardess (yes, i still say "stewardess") on the Icelandair flight refused to give Karen the Icelandic newspaper. Maybe everybody is pissed about all the McDonald's everywhere, or the bad music we make that pollutes all of their music networks. Can't say i blame them.
This is the lounge of the hotel we stayed at in London, where the rockers all hang out. Seriously!
Food: Starting with breakfast, i'm a big fan of the English variety, which consists of an egg (singular) sausage and bacon (the style of which is much more delicious and real-food like than American bacon), a fried tomato (which i of course skipped), and a heaping ladle of Heinz baked beans. In some cases mushrooms or fried toast was included, or you could get Black Pudding (blood of whatever poor livestock happens to be hanging around, mixed with oatmeal and Lord knows what else, surved patty style), which was remnicient of Stove Top, but ultimately not worth getting too excited about. Haggis, as i mentioned, is very tasty stuff, and not nearly as repellent as you probably assumed (no, you don't eat, or in most cases even see, the stomach). Recommended for those traveling in Scotland in need of a meatloaf fix. While in Glasgow, i went to a butcher shop for a 98p steak pie, served cold by a butcher with blood on his hands (literally and not figuratively). This, obviously, was very delicious and i found myself almost crossing town to buy another the next day. The highlight, tho, came on the trip's final night, when Karen and i finally settled on a restaurant only 2 blocks from our hotel in Reykjavik that served whale steaks! It was even listed as the "Moby Dick Whale Steak" on the menu. I asked Karen if she'd be offended if i tried whale stake - she'd been less than thrilled about the black pudding experiment - and she encouraged me to try it. So i did, and it was very very tasty, covered in a brown raspberry sauce and served with mushrooms, string beans and those mini-corn cob things. As for the steak itself, it was, as Paul Harvey would unappetizingly say, "chewy, like real meat!", fittingly steak-like in consistency, but distinctly, er, briney. Karen couldn't quite handle it, but i made quick work of it. I hate to make food the highlight of any trip, no matter how good, but that may have been it. Better than the dried fish chips we sampled at a flea market earlier that day.
Gettin' Round: London's tube system has my vote for 8th wonder of the world. The trains literally pass every 2 minutes. No running for a G train, no sir, not for them! Make three connections with ease! Elevators, escalators, and they all work! Service announcements! Cute, fun names like the "Bakerloo Line"! The only way it could be better is if it were somewhere other than London. Glasgow is home to one of the oldest subway systems in the entire world, a two-route loop, presumably built when people never reached 6 feet tall. The trains were so laughably small and cramped, riding one made me feel like i was in Alice in Wonderland. But once again, no waiting. Reykjavik, as you'd probably guess, has no train system, and, with downtown a 20 minute walk in length, no need for one.
Our wonderful hosts: I'd like to publicly thank Richard (London) and Donna and David (Glasgow) for their hospitality, and be assured that i have a wonderful fouton mattress if you ever feel like dropping in for a few days. I've been known to make a mean breakfast, you know.
Drinkin': Did plenty of that, thanks. My only duty free shopping consisted of buying a bottle of brennevin, an after dinner liquer used in Iceland as a palate cleanser after eating fermented shark. It's also known as "black death." Can't wait to try it! I almost whipped some out last night at the bar, but decided even in my drunken state to wait for a more festive occasion, such as my next fermented shark and whale barbecue.
Phew. I know i'm forgetting a lot, but at this point, just go ahead and ask me questions. Now, it's time to start filling out all of those postcards i bought.
One of many sheep Karen unsuccessfully attempted to lure into her nefarious clutches
I mention this because, with Karen and i having bought so much stuff on the trip, i had the brilliant idea of packing a box of all the clothes/books/etc. we weren't going to use the rest of the trip, and shipping it back parcel post so we wouldn't have to lug it to Iceland and then home. So, i packed a huge garbage bag of everything we intended to ship, and i lifted up the bag, and it was a bit heavy. Karen pointed out i had some excess room in my luggage, so i acquiesced and started pulling out some items. And what happened to bounce out of some pants pockets but my passport! Oh, what would've i done then?! I guess i would've had to stay here, which wouldn't have been so bad.
Except of course, that once i got the box packed, thanks in part to the help of the very enthusiastic and coarse man at Mailboxes Etc., slashing around with his razor and pen and tape dispenser, fashioning a perfect size box of almost neutron-star density, it was revealed that it was going to cost almost £90 ($160!) to ship the 20 lb. box. That's more than it cost to ship me here! So, now i get to lug around a box, nicely packaged as it is, along with my other things. For a smart guy, i can be pretty dumb sometimes.
Haggis, by the way, is delicious.
Monday, Sept. 29 - The problem, of course, is money. London is an expensive place, first of all. But, the bigger problem is, the money is just so damn cute! A pound (£) here is equivalent to about $1.60 US (and about $1.95 Canadian), but the pounds are thick little coins with inscriptions along the sides, not much bigger than a dime. I put a pound in a payphone (callbox) yesterday, and didn't think twice about paying $1.60 for a phone call until i got several blocks from the call box. Not only that, but since prices (in £) here are around the same (if a little less) than the prices (in $), you get lured into the sense that you are paying about the same for everything. Or at least, i do. But, £2 for a beer on special, what a bargain! £7.95 for delicious fish and chips at a fancy bar? Two please! In other words, i'm in trouble.
Anyway, it is this descrepincy [sic] in price that may help to explain why the subway (tube) system is so much more efficient here than in NYC. If i ever move here, i'm convinced that it will be because of the tube system. And, i have yet to witness my first traffic problem. Mind you, i don't know why i would move here, seeing as how it's basically like a big version of Boston, but if i *did*, at least i could get around okay. Actually, there are many things to like about London, only they seem to be all the same things that are likeable about New York, with a few castles thrown in.
We leave for Scotland tomorrow, and i'm very excited. I still haven't felt like i'm in a foreign country since i left, unless you count that 2 hrs. in the Iceland airport. We've been staying at a very fancy run-down hotel which i actually really dig. This place may have been fancy in 1940, but hasn't really had a repainting since then. It's called the Columbia, and it's located north of New Hyde park, and i'd recommend it, but it's between £60-£80 per nite (depending on how good of a liar you are), and well, that's expensive. I continued on Moby Dick last night at the otherwise-completely vacant hotel bar (i'm up to chapter 53 now), while drinking £2 Jameson's (and that *is* a pretty good deal). All of the ceilings are high, the bay windows big, the rooms small with deep baths and no views. And the service is kind of snotty. I almost didn't get into the country, in case i haven't told you. The nice lady at the passport gate asked who i was staying with. I meekly replied "Richard." This wasn't an adequate answer. She scolded me and asked me what i would do if Richard didn't show up, and i just kinda shrugged, like, "i'm an adult, you know? I'll figger it out." And then she asked how much money i had in my account. I should have asked her if she was my mom. Anyway, without much in the way of satisfactory replies to this, she made me sit for 20 minutes or so before, w/o explanation, she let me into her fine country. Which didn't matter because Karen showed up late anyway.
I can't wait to get back to NYC, part I: Kevin's kickball league has finally come true ...
Friday, Sept. 26 - Hello, i'm in London. I had beans, black pudding (which i think is fried sheep's blood? served patty-style) and a single egg for breakfast, as well as coffee dusted with unsweetend cocoa. Strange place this England. Actually, i can't say it feels that foreign to me. It is true that when pubs close at 11, you drink as much as you possibly can in the hours and minutes leading up to it. So, yes i'm a little frazzled. It's around 10 am, though, which means i've adjusted to the time. The Hissyfits had a very good show last night in front of a packed venue named the Barfly. The headlining act (which went on just before 10 - take that, New York) was from Williamsburg, and featured old members of Jeff Buckley's band. In what might be the funniest thing i've heard since i've gotten here, Hissyfits drummer Sivan, while chatting up the drummer of the other band, asked if he "still played with Jeff Buckley." Jeff Buckley's been dead since 1997. Oops!
And now, the 2nd funniest thing i've heard since i left home. Naturally, it happened 20 minutes into my flight to Iceland. I was sitting next to a Dutch fake "gangsta" (hilarious in its own right, although it wasn't), and we, or i should say he, was discussing deviant sexual practices. I believe on these pages i've told you about "The Stranger" and now you can add the "Rusty Trombone" to the list. Read on at your own risk: the "Rusty Trombone" is where a girl is eating your asshole and jerking you off at the same time. Ask for it by name! How sad, that, after all those years in a band with a trombone player ... anyway ...
Today, since the Hissys, or the Fits, or whatever you wish to call them, thankfully cancelled their show to-day in Newcastle (7 hrs. drive), we have a brisk sunny day to dedicate to lollygagging around London. We got tickets to see a play at the Shakespear Globe theater (£5, cheep!) and i'm looking into football tickets for Sunday. Shopping, beer, British stuff, fuck it, i'm into it.
Times up, for now ...