Thursday, August 30, 2007

Where am I?

This isn't a skill testing question for you, nor for that matter a prelude to dropping hints about the fabulous places I've been or am going. You know I am not that subtle. It's a question to myself. I know which city I am in (Boston), and will be (New York, then London). But am referring to those moments where the mind loses its natural references points, like a kind of temporal-spatial dizziness. I need to call a friend, and can't remember whether 6 am here is midnight or noon there, when I realize that 6 am here is also 6 am there. I am sitting in the cinema, and while the images flicker on the screen I suddenly am uncertain where I am. This kind of transport of rapture is of course what art is supposed to achieve, though I'm not sure the 5th Harry Potter film qualifies as art (don't give me a hard time on this one please - HP is children's food, and we all need that from time to time). What I mean is more like this. Even when you're indoors, don't you have a mental map of what the street outside will look like and how it connects to everything else? When you see an image of the screen (which happened to be London in HP 5), don't you say to yourself here (if it's the same town where you happen to be -- happens often in NY or London) or there (if it happens to be some other place you know well) or exotic (places you don't know at all). What happens when this mechanism breaks down? You float: the familiar looks exotic, the exotic vaguely familiar and calming.

Where am I?


What's this?

What's this? I go and get a makeover and don't get any comments? Sometimes, I really feel taken for granted.



Monday, August 27, 2007


Is this a cat's life? Eating a succession of fine meals accompanied by a veritable bowl of wine and then time in the afternoon to rest and think of meals past and meals future? Is this what it means to purr contentedly? I am of course referring to my most recent trip to Italy, and if all of the above includes worrying about adding too much fat in the wrong places then I think it is.

I don't want to alarm our Italian friends (hello friends) into thinking that I am like a starving refugee washed up on their shores (though it often seems like this). I do sleep in a warm bed, and I had seen hot and cold running water before being in Italy. What I had not seen (since my last time in Italy - admittedly it was only June, but it seems like the dim past) was a succession of fine meals ranging from a low of 13 Euros (a deliciously thin pizza and a carafe of red wine) to the bank-breaking extravagance of 40 Euros for a no-holes-barred, 4-course meal at a fancy spot. At my neighborhood spot in London I would pay 20-25 pounds for one of those meals where you carefully tiptoe across the menu like a minefield in order to convince your friends that you aren't either very stingy, poor, or suffering from an eating disorder (I'll have a side of field greens please and an ice water).

Yes, there was more than food on this trip. There was art, typically the older masterish variety.

There were mediaeval towns. There was driving and road trip music (more on the latter some other time). There was a wedding.

But as my stomach grumbles at getting back to dry toast and Danon Activia, my mind seems to wander back to a plate of truffle scented pasta and a half litre of Montefalco Rosso.

(Note the wall that is used to keep out starving foreign tourists.)

Prrrrrrr ... grrrrrr...


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Here is my problem

I've got some real problems with the weather forecast. No, not only that I don't like it, but: as far as I can tell the weather forecasts in the UK seem to cover the entire country. Typically the narrowest I can get them is regions vaguely known as the South East or South West, or North by North West. Which one I am in? In New York I am used to a forecast that covers just my borough (Manhattan), and that too I am used to hearing a weather forecaster (a meteorologist, Dr. Joel Sobel no less) who looks at a radar image while he speaks (raining now in Brooklyn, should reach Manhattan around 57th Street in 12 minutes -- well not quite literally, but you get the idea).

After a session of extreme googling I finally came up with an hour-by-hour forecast just for London. The trouble is that most of the forecast is filled with symbols that look like this:

What pray tell is this? Sunny and cloudy with doses of heavy rain? (Note the ominous double water drop. Serious.) Sunny then cloudy followed by rain? Rain then dispersing clouds followed by sunny skies? I seem to recall from some math class that there are at least six distinct combinations.

What I'm always hoping for is something that looks like this:

I am told that if I stir out at exactly 10 am tomorrow then I am due at least one minute of pure sunshine.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Right now in London

It was just one of those days...

when London looks like a picture postcard of a lake in upstate New York.

Not that I've been to upstate New York or anything, but I'm sure that it looks just like this. This of course is just Hyde Park. Just in Hyde Park. Just in Hyde Park indeed.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Prices in London

Coming back to London did however make me experience renewed sticker shock. I did this post a while back but never published it. I reproduce it here in its period charm.

* * *

Every newcomer to a city has his or her usual complaints. In London, I believe they are, in this order: the weather, prices, and the underground. More on the weather and the underground some other time.

This is the first in a perhaps to-be-continued series called "London Shopping Basket". My goal is not to complain about how expensive things are, though perhaps this is true. Nor is it to comment on how much better the quality is in London than New York or London of years past, though perhaps this is true. These two tasks I leave to you.

Shopping list 29 May 2007
>Brown lentils (canned, gluten free, vegetarian, no gmo, etc.,), 400 grams, £ 0.95
>Macedoine de legumes (a jar of assorted vegetables from France), 720 mL, £3.50
>Breadsticks (pinazatelli grissini torinesi tipo "0"), 300g, £2.20
>Semi-skimmed milk (unhomogenized, organic, from Somerset), 1L, £1.60

>Emmental cheese, 375 grams, £3.48
>French table wine (Gerard Betrannd, Vin de pays d'oc, Merlot, 2003), 750 mL, £ 6.95

Total (including VAT), £18.68



Back in the saddle

Back in the saddle of the cowperson lifestyle that is life at the aglet factory. Whilst I was away, no breakthroughs, still the same little transparent caps at the end of your shoelaces.

After a weekend of glorious London summer weather (resembles glorious autumn weather in New York - warm and dry), I awoke to the usual London sky frowning down on me. Had I missed that moody visage? Yes.

Welcome back the city says to me, and I say to myself.



Friday, August 3, 2007

What is opera?

(Every time I listen to Wagner I feel the rising urge to invade Poland -- Woody Allen .)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Flugelbinder World Tour

8 days, 7 different city stints, 5 unique cities, 3 countries, 3 airlines, 2 continents, 2 pairs of shoes (not enough), one bag (not nearly enough), one trusty Mac Book Pro (plenty), and 1 auto-correcting lights-out anti-jet lag constitution (not for sale).

It's a flugelbinder's life as they say.

But back home soon (oops, seem to have misplaced it).


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