Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Well, call me Lucy Honeychurch

So, happily, I find myself torn. Do I go for the very clean and well-furnished place, in the bad neighborhood, closer to the center of town, with one older flatmate who is never ever there? Or do I go for the grungier place, in the better neighborhood, further from the center of town, with three flatmates my age, two of whom are dancers? The latter is more than £100 cheaper a month. The answer is clear; I should choose the sensible option. But which one is sensible? The nice place, or the nice neighborhood? I should also choose the one that will not drive me insane. But would I be driven more insane by dancers, or by living alone? Loyal readers of Greg's London Ramblings, speak now or forever hold your peace.

By the way, I suddenly realized that there's no way I could live in industrial loft space. I'm too old, yeah?

Drinks with T was terrific. He's fun and funny and opinionated and plugged into, well, the scene I'm looking for. We went to a new bar called Trash Palace which was fun, but, well, a trifle ersatz, if you know what I mean -- like some sitcom-set version of a queer dance party. And too brightly lit. But there was some eye candy, and some good music. When we left, the DJ was playing nursery rhymes, not even mixed up with anything. Just "This onld man, he played one." Hot.

Thanks to all of you who sent Birthday greetings. I had one glass of whiskey in the brightly-lit Cambridge gay bar with H, then went home to work on my Smith/Mt. Holyoke job application. Sigh.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

A significantly better day!

So I wanted to write in more detail about the one really horrible potential flat-mate from Friday, with the pot drying in the very room he was trying to rent out, the casual racism, the prevarications about speed use, and the "all opera is trivial" pronouncements. Oh and did I mention he is a professional violinist? (Never forget, musicologists: performers are the enemy.)

But, I will not recount these things, because Saturday was much much better! I saw a house that I could actually imagine myself living in, and which I could afford. Mircale! Even I don't get the place, it is a huge weight removed to know that it exists. I got in touch with Ali's London friend, who has a lead on some cheap loft space. I had a lovely few hours with E--- from Oxford, then drinks with H---. (I've decided I like the pseudonym thing, which I had originally intended to avoid, although I will resist the strong temptation to give people titles for even more 19th-century flavor - "drinks with La Princesse de H---" etc. ) I tried to get tickets to the opera, but it was sold out. (People care deeply about Juan Diego Flores; who knew?)

Also got a birthday phone call from J, which left me glowing.

Today, two more flats, then drinks and what-not with the intriguing T---...

Saturday, November 27, 2004

A very bad day

I dumped the law professor who sounded like a cartoon parody of a British aristocrat.

I also dumped the Dutch/Swedish/Spanish household.

The guy in Leyton forgot that we had agreed on four o'clock, and proceeded to show me a miniscule room that had been painted purple.

The guy in Stratford basically admitted to speed use, and openly insulted my chosen line of work.
P.S. Stratford is hideous

The guys in Hamstead were lovely, but the quoted rent didn't include utilities and tax, which would bring it up to about 75% of my total income.
P.S. Hamstead looks like a mall in Carmel

I am despairing a bit. Surely they can't all be this bad.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Out of the frying pan...

Okay, so I have four places to visit tomorrow, and three on Saturday. Hopefully also one on Sunday. Saturday will be the worst, what with the terrifying professor of Law at 11 am, zip down to south London at 2 pm, then get to Hamstead by 3:30, and hopefully back to Covent Garden at 5, in time to meet a musicology professor for a drink before the opera at 7. This may be impossible. Hmm... I think that I'll cancel that 2:00 one, which I can't really afford anyway. Yes. That would be better.

I talked to this one landlord on the phone, and I said I had an embarassment of riches when it came to the number of places I have to choose from. She didn't know what this phrase meant. She then told me I couldn't cook meat or eggs in the kitchen, and I hung up.


Okay, so some of you may know that I have this strange phobia about the phone. I'm not sure what it is, but I've never liked calling people, even people I know who are expecting my call. Calling people I don't know just fills me with dread. I cannot explain this.

So, I've taken a kind of wimpy way out and emailed a bunch of potential flatmates. As of right now I've emailed an even dozen, of which five have gotten back to me and four have set up times to visit. I think that's not too shabby. Of the five, two have rents that I probably can't afford, and two are probably in neigborhoods I don't want to live in. But we shall see.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Man places to rent are so crappy

Okay so that title is, of course, a quotation from the blog of a fictional cartoon cat which I read religiously (Achewood, natch), and in fact, at least so far, it looks like places in London aren't so bad after all. In fact, it looks like my problem will be way too many places to choose from rather than too few. What with the University listings and the gay apartment listings (called "Outlet," get it?) I don't think I can even manage to wade through the normal classifieds (in a publication called Loot).

The biggest problem is that London is very very big, and really I don't particularly care where I live. (Also, each of the approximiately 50 bajillion neighborhoods has a ridiculous-sounding name, each more ridiculous-sounding than the last.) It would really be more helpful if, instead of the listings being divided up into headings like "Cricklewood," "Mudchute," and "Nunhead" (not making these names up!), the listings were rather grouped into headings like "Flatmate is manic-depressive," "Flatmate is emotionally needy." and "Flatmate is addicted to cocaine." Oh well.

The decision whether or not to live with gay men is a tricky one, since it might create as many problems as it solves. Of course, I've lived on my own for five years now, so I really have no idea what any of this is like. I've promised that I will make one phone call tomorrow, just to prove to myself that I can do it.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

A British moment

So, I was in the drugstore today, and there was this little kid, maybe 5 or 6, who was bugging his mother to buy him something, on account of a sign that said "buy two get one free." The mother said to the kid, "that's just a ploy to get you to buy two things that you don't need." And the kid responded, "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize." I think I can say with some assurance that an American child would never respond with those words.

In other news, a bus driver, whose accent was completely incomprehensible, openly mocked me for not knowing the correct fare, and then forced me to pay 60p too much.

I got a phone

Email me if you want the number.

Very bad news

Okay so this blog thing is supposed to be about my experiences in London, but I guess it's as good a place as any to express my absolute, utter, complete disbelief at the death of Sunny Perkins. We went to high school together, and, believe it or not, she was my date to the junior prom -- I have the pictures to prove it. I wore a black velvet tuxedo jacket I'd borrowed from Damian Miller, and she wore very glamorous palazzo pants.

Although I only ran into her occasionally these days, she still went to the trouble of sending me a little bon voyage note a few weeks ago.

Info on the memorial and stuff is here: http://www.bigburlesque.com/

I really wish I could be there.

Friday, November 19, 2004

First impressions

Getting from Heathrow to my hotel with aroung 150 lbs of luggage was a challange, but I survived. (If I'd just managed to dig out my map from inside the luggage I would've spent less time wandering, but I was too proud to manage that.) The Comfort Inn King's Cross gets a big, big endorsement from me, both because it was a nice hotel with wireless internet, but also because they didn't charge me for an extra night, which (for complicated reasons) they had every right to do.

Oh, and upon searching for a wireless network to connect to in the hotel, I saw two: the hotel's, and another one called "ageconcern." Compulsive listeners to NPR will recognize "Age Concern" as the name of the charity that David Sedaris volunteers for in London, as he explained in the recent Terry Gross interview. (Yeah, I know... I'm sorry.) So after seeing Al Pacino, I imagined myself to be, like, *this close* to David Sedaris.

Thursday morning was drizzly and bleak. I walked to the University to go to this reception for all the Institue of Historical Research fellows. The five-minute presentations went well, and the reception was very nice. It turns out that both of the fellows from Canadian Universities are actually Americans. It was interesting whom I was able to talk to, and whom I wasn't: The woman studying regional autonomy in northwest Pakistan? I could've chatted to her for hours. The guy looking at British newspapers during WWI? I couldn't think of anything to say... All in all, a good event, though. It was more than a little disconcerting that several people, upon leaving, said, "well, I guess I'll see you at the next reception in February!" I need to hook up with the musicologists here soon, or else it will be a lonely ten months, intellectually...

Thursday evening I took the train to Cambridge; Harsh met me at station. He is looking good and seems happy. He just bought an apartment, which is a big deal. Since he just moved in, however, he has absolutely no furniture at all. This sort of puts us on an equal footing, in a way, since we're both living out of suitcases and sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor.

So here's where I start the work in earnest -- first getting a phone, then calling non-stop about apartments, all the while continuing to work and do the job applications. There is a temptation, as in France, of just hiding in my room rather than face the feeling of total incompetance all the time. But at least they sort of speak English, sort of.

I saw Al Pacino in JFK

New York was also good. While waiting a very very long time in the ariport to get picked up, I saw Al Pacino. He was, I can say with confidence, being "whisked" through the airport. A few minutes later his -- what, assistant? flunky? -- whatever some guy who had been with him came back to fetch his luggage (I was waiting in baggage claim) and two airport employees were being fawning and obsequious.

My 36-hour layover in NYC was surprisingly relaxing -- Dan and Joe seem to be doing well, Max seems very well, Ash's apartment is beautiful, etc.


Let's back up: Seattle was good. The paper went really well, despite the fact the final revisions were done the night before. The first question threw me for a loop, despite the fact that it was obviously supposed to be an easy question. Later questions went better. The question I feared the most (that is, the questioner I feared the most) turned out to be no so bad, and apparently said nice things about me to my adviser later on. It was good to see certain people that I hadn't seen in a year, and all in all, it was an invigorating weekend. Not much in the way of good papers, but then again, I didn't go to many papers, what with finishing the revisions and all.

The other big news from Seattle is that my name was does in fact appear in the new Oxford History of Western Music. I had seen the draft with my name dropped, as it were, but I was sure that it would get edited out before it went to press, seeing as the work being "cited" is a seminar paper about Philip Glass that I wrote my first year of grad school. But no, it's still there. This means of course, that I absolutely have to publish on minimalism in the next few years -- I'll get right on that. As soon as I have a bed.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


On Tuesday I slept in Oakland
On Wednesday I slept in Grant's Pass
On Thursday I slept in a hotel in Seattle
On Friday the same
On Saturday I slept in a bathhouse
On Sunday I slept in my parent's house on Mercer Island
On Monday I slept in New Haven
On Tuesday I slept in Manhattan
Tonight is Wednesday, and I an sleeping in a hotel in London
Tomorrow, Thursday, I shall sleep in Cambridge
And start looking for an apartment in which to sleep all the time.