Wednesday, December 28, 2005

It has happened twice now

Okay, so my first full day here in Seattle I decide to go wandering around familiar places. And I walk into my favorite Seattle coffee house (which, incidentally, is near the school I attended when I was 14, although it didn't exist then), and what do I hear, but the voice Rachel Stevens, critically lauded British pop star, formerly of S-Club-7. This is exactly the music I thought I would never hear again -- Rachel isn't even listed as an artist in the US version of iTunes, even though if you switch to UK iTunes there are a half-dozen albums. The coffee house is just playing the whole album, while the (apparently American) barista was explaining to cashier why she was so great (which she is). A coincidence of timing, but it seemed significant.

Then today, I popped into a vintage store on Broadway (vintage stores here are so much better). And the store is playing, again as an entire album, "Different Class" by Pulp. I mean, I guess people in the US listen to this album (I know you do, BQ) -- but you certainly can't count on hearing "Disco 2000" every single time you go out in the US like you can in London.

So it goes.

Not Quite the End Yet

I have arrived safely in the United States. This means that I am now jolted awake by Morning Edition, rather than by The Today Programme. Morning Edition is very, very different from the Today Programme. And not necessarily worse. But not exactly better either.

And thus Greg's London Ramblings begins to draw to a close. There will be a few more entries, however, with pictures, an account of my leave-taking, and final thoughts.

For those of you keeping track, I will be down in SF in the week of January 16th. At the very latest, I will be there for the Pansy Division gig on the 20th. Then I will find an apartment, then go back to Seattle to drive my stuff down and move in around February 1.

This means I desperately need an invite for something fun on New Year's Eve in Seattle. Does anyone know anyone? I have taken to messaging random strangers on Friendster. This is uncharacteristically forward of me, but then again, I have nothing to lose.

With due apologies for exceeding the strict purview of this blog, I must point out two things about my three days spent in New York:

(1) I made a special trip to Bergdorf Goodman's to see the Thom Browne collection. I've been curious about Thom Browne ever since the Fantastic Man interview, in which he seemed to say so much that exactly echoed my thoughts about men's clothes -- the need for a "uniform," the abhorrence of costume, the short-hemmed trousers. And then I read this thing in the Grauniad, in which a blue Thom Browne suit is chosen as the men's look of the year for the UK Costume Museum. And seeing the cloths in person... well, I think he may just be what we've been looking for. Certainly if I had $6000 just lying around that I wasn't doing anything with, I know what I would be wearing every day.

(2) I saw Robert Rauchenberg. At an opening at the Met. An exclusive opening. He is old, and in a wheelchair. Thanks A—!

Let's review the famous people I've seen in the past 12 months:

Robert Rauchenberg
Dawn French (at the Andreas Scholl recital)
Alexander McQueen
Simon Pegg
Vladimir Ashkenazy
Eric Hobsbawm
Paul Smith
...and I think I might have seen Dan Savage walking down the street in Seattle a few days ago, but I'm not sure.
EDIT: and also...
Andy Bell from Erasure
The food guy from Queer Eye US
The decorator guy from Queer Eye UK

Yes, I know that last one is not an actual "celebrity" in any meaningful sense.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Leaving Do

I feel like there was a post here months and months ago in which I expressed my amusement at the phrase "leaving do" to mean "going away party." And now here I am, inviting people to my "leaving do" left and right, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. It begins in two hours.

Paris was great. I have discovered that you can make a lot more progress in the Bibliothèque Nationale if you take clandestine digital photographs of the mocrofilm reader, rather than argue with the photocopy-flunkies. It is the most useful my digital camera has ever been.

I have learned a great deal more than I knew before about Gilbert-Louis Duprez.

Since getting back, it's been one "last thing" after another. I had a list. I'm not going to make it to everything on the list. Iceskating at Somerset House and climbing to the top of The Monument will, I fear, not happen for a very, very long time. But I did go the Freud Museum.

Monday, a last night with R—. Tuesday, a swank dinner with B—. Wednesday, a night out with the housemates. Tonight, the leaving do. Tomorrow, an intimate dinner at the home of O—.

My ability to introspect seems to be dwindling to hitherto unknown levels.

I. Hate. Packing.

Oh and last night? Out with the housemates? I did a thing that I have never done before, and will never, ever do again. Don't worry - it was entirely legal and safe. But let it suffice to say that when you are leaving a country, you have very little dignity to save.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I forget to mention

I believe I forgot to mention that I got my passport back.

And that am I now in Paris.

Ah, Paree!

I'm typing this in an art gallery, where the wireless is free.

More soon.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Turkey Day / Birthday

My birthday (Tuesday) was great. I spent all day here, then met a few friends here, and finished by enjoying a few warm pints at a classic, brightly lit, carpeted pub. I received some wonderful gifts: socks (no really, they are awesome socks), a DVD, a CD, a really really great portrait of me, and a dozen muffins from my sister. Hooray for twenty-eight!

I am spending the morning here. It is lovely.

This afternoon I was supposed to go here, but for the life of me I can't figure out what I decided I needed to see there. The book that I was positive was only held there either (1) has disappeared since I first searched the catalogue or (2) was never there in the first place. Bad scholar!

In case you were wondering, I share my birthday with Louisa May Alcott, Busby Berkeley, C.S. Lewis, Madeline L'Engle, Gary Shandling, and Howie Mandel. From this list, you can easily see that astrology is totally true.

But I must go back to two previous days recently that were very special: Thanksgiving, and The Day of Famous People.


Like my birthday, this was also nice. I ate dinner at college classmates R—'s flat, in the building above Baker Street tube station. (That means it is a very expensive flat.) R—'r parents are British, but have been living in New Jersey for close to twenty years. So it was all suitably American. The turkey was entirely wrapped in fatty bacon before roasting, however, a delicious British touch.

On the journey home, a man took my picture on the Tube. It was unsettling: rather than making eye contact, asking for my consent implicitly or out loud, he simply got out his camera-phone and pointed it at me, while never at any point making eye contact. I tried to stare him down, and when that didn't work I tried staring directly into the lens of the camera. But he never flinched -- he never looked at me. He seemed to me to be smirking and chuckling. It was very very odd. (Question for discussion: is this the opposite of being kicked in the teeth, or its analogue?)

I shall chose to believe that he was recording my outfit for posterity. I was wearing my fuzzy red cashmere woven tie (the "sweater tie"), a white shirt and a gray cardigan, with black suit trousers, my new boots (which deserve a post of their own) and the leather jacket. It's all about contrasting textures, see?

My Day of Famous People

The following Saturday I met up with the Spaniard for Lunch. I rather randomly chose to meet at the cafe in Selfridges, since I enjoy walking around there, and it's convenient to Marble Arch, where he would be getting off the bus from Oxford. As I walked up to him in the cafe he said "look over there in the corner." I did not notice anything special. "It's Vladimir Ashkenazi!"

The Spaniard is the kind of person who would recognize people like this. (He's also the kind of person whom Angela Georghiu comes up to, on her own accord, to yell at him in a restaurant, but that's another story.) Along similar lines: Van Twee, your story about the world-famous pianist is, according to the Spaniard, everyone's story about that famous pianist. Perhaps unsurprisingly.

But if I'm not able to recognize famous conductors in random sightings, I got my own back an hour later. As we were finishing lunch, I got up to find the bathroom, who should I walk right by but Simon Pegg. Unmistakable. He had a baseball cap pulled down over his face, and is quite short, so I don't think I would have recognized him if I hadn't gotten so very close.

Then the Spaniard and I have a stroll around Mayfair. While on our way to the Dover Street Market (which, by the way, are currently selling bottles of CDG "White" perfume in bottles with adorable hand-knit sweaters which are the best things ever) I noticed a new shop that had just opened. It was revealed to be the new Paul Smith Home store. As we walked in I immediately noticed that the man standing in the middle of the store was, in fact, Paul Smith himself. Honestly, I recognized him only on the basis of his portrait in the National Portrait Gallery -- a oil painting in which he is clutching a bolt of green fabric.

But here's the thing: he was incredibly nice to us. I was wearing my scruffy anti-capitalist sneakers, and the Spaniard looked like an Oxford post-graduate student... either way is was very obvious that neither of us was about to drop £3000 on a pair of eighteenth-century chairs. Nonetheless, when he saw us looking at them, he came over completely unbidden and began good-naturedly telling us humorous stories about where he picked them up, and where they were about to be shipped. He was utterly delightful.

After a few minutes in the store, I had decided that, yes, I was going to take him picture. But when we came back into the front room he had gone out to run an errand. Oh well.

So, it's 16 days until I leave, and it looks like I WILL be going to France for five of those. So... I don't want to think about it.