Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Right now in London*

Right now in London the sky looks something like this:

No need to get bored really. There is little doubt in my mind how a Turner becomes a Turner. After a few weeks in this country, you look up at the sky with dread, self-pity, fear, and wonder, all emotions that I'm sure Aristotle somewhere or the other in his Poetics links to the higher arts. If you live in France, you paint languorous water lilies.

If you live in the UK, you paint ships being wrecked by violent storms.

Quite natural, really. Unless we all get bored, this might become a regular feature, minus the gratuitous references to now-dead white males.

* I believe I have borrowed "The right now in London" feature from a more experienced London blogger: Lola. An excellent idea -- credit where it is due!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

So what (exactly) do you do?

Sooner or later this question is going to come up, so we should address it now. There are two things I do (in the New York sense, more on this below). I am a Flugelbinder, aspiring to someday achieve the title of Meisterflugelbinder. This is my passion. I real life, to pay the bills, I work in an aglet factory. They have to come from somewhere, those invaluable plastic caps that keep your shoelaces from fraying. I can tell you where they come from. I wish it were more artisanal work, but that's the way it is. At least I can live for my art.

When you meet you someone in New York, first few lines of dialogue pretty much goes like this.

"Hi I'm X."

"Hi, I'm Y."

"So, what do you do?"

And somewhat later,

"So, which part of town do you live in?"

We'll come back to the last one some other time, but the "so what do you do" question is way to pin someone down. No, not just box them, but also to suggest lines for further conversation. "Ah, latex. A fascinating industry."

I am still trying to figure out what they say to each other here. Not, as far as I can tell, the old fashioned "How do you do?" I've tried a few others, with limited success: "Hi, I'm BB and I'm a flugelbinder. What about you?" or "What do you folks do around here?" or even the old New York standby "So how do you know [enter here the name of the host of the party you're at - a person neither of you typically knows directly]?" No, I'm coming to the conclusion that in this city people just tend not to speak with each other, unless of course introduced by a mutual acquaintance.

Wherein the newly anointed blogger disclaims all responsibility

The title comes with responsibilities, I'm sure. But every package has fine print. Every advert has the bits they say quickly at the end, where in essence they revoke any and all promise, implicit or explicit. So here it is.

Herein I do not promise to post regularly. I do not promise to proofread my posts. I do not promise to be funny, witty, profound, stylish, or interesting. I do promise to waste a certain amount of your time, but how much exactly I can't promise. It will vary from occasion to occasion depending on the length of the post.

Wherein the author addresses the purpose of this blog

Blogging has become quite the thing these days, at least among those for whom it is the thing. (If this were a novel, then this would surely become famous as one of the worst opening lines ever. )

Second attempt. It was a grey day, overcast, with the constant threat of rain, much like the previous day, and the day before.

Third attempt. It was my first day in London. Nostalgia isn't really my thing. Though I wasn't aching for New York, it was nonetheless always in my mind, hovering like a song you can't get out of your head, the constant reference point for each of my actions. Remember, look left, not right when you cross the street. (Not so hard to remember given that they paint it on the street.)

I happened to look at a red phone booth, a typical sight in London.

And of course without going in, could well imagine what I would find inside.

The New York phone booth instead isn't even a booth. It's telephone. Sometimes there's a canopy over it. Sometimes there is a phone attached, but not always. But they are invariably grimy. Putting one to your ear is worse than using the facilities/ loo (dual terminology is going to be a bit of a burden) at a train station. What you see is pretty much what you get.
And this was the kernel of the blog. To share with friends the small moments of being new in London. Often the moments that give color to the day are exactly those you wouldn't trouble your friends with over e-mail or the telephone, but add a bit of texture (and occasionally consternation) to the day.

So dear friends, let us take this path and see where it leads us.
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