Saturday, 28 April 2007

Letter from America #1

I arrived at Heathrow 8.30am and decided that the best way to combat an eight hour flight was to quickly down three pints of Stella and hope to sleep as much as possible. I was drunk by 9.45. Having had no breakfast probably contributed to this. I was also in a terrific mood. I think it had just occured to me how lucky I am. Just to to cross the Atlantic so easily is a marvellous thing to be able to do but I have the added good fortune of being able to do this whenever I choose to. I have no-one dependent on me and am able to fly thousands of miles when I please. I'm a lucky man.

So, even though I'm about to embark on one of the unfriendliest journeys in the world I'm in a fine mood. I don't think I'm exaggerating about the nature of air travel to the states. There is no joking to be done. Everything is very serious. Check-in involves having to answer questions about whether I'm carrying any explosive devices. I have to remove my shoes and belt on two separate occasions. I have to inform the authorities of my whereabouts whilst in the US. The visa waiver form asks me whether I was involved in the persecution of Jews in central Europe between the years 1933 and 1945. At US border control I encounter a man who is in greater need of colonic irrigation than anyone else I've ever met. He looks like he's forgotten how to laugh and I pity him. There are probably fewer smiles on my journey than there are between North and South Koreans across their DMZ. I tell all this to my friend when I arrive and he says "You think that's bad? You're a white man coming from a friendly country..." I dread to think how it would be if my surname was Hussain.

All this might make it seem as if I had a crap journey but that would be untrue. I enjoyed the inflight entertainment (Casino Royale, MP3 player, beer and some light sleep) and didn't even mind the four hour stopover at Dulles airport. It gave me a chance to sit down and do some writing. As I wrote I became very aware that I was the only person using a pen and paper among a bunch of people with laptops. I felt like a relic. But I bet I was the only one doing something fun and not, for example, drafting a business proposal or using an expensive piece of hardware to play games where, traditionally, a pack of playing cards would suffice. Yeah.

The weather in DC had a distinctly English flavour - it was grey. That actually does a disservice to the lovely weather we've had lately. But however nice it's been it can never compare to Myrtle Beach weather. When I arrived the sun had just gone down. The air was balmy and there was the slightest of breezes to take the edge off of any discomfort that the humidity might cause. The weather in Myrtle Beach in late April is perfect.

Here is what I've done so far: Had a bbq on the day I arrived. Walked Ivor the dog on the beach the next morning. Had a meal at a Japanese restaurant called Miyabi's that actually had nothing Japanese about it apart from the name and decor. Driven an automatic transmission car for the first time on the right hand side of the road, also for the first time. And I've drunk lots of beer. As I type I'm feeling really tired. Everything aches. I should be at a bbq with Becky but I've blown it out as I don't think I'd be very sociable, especially among a bunch of Americans I've not met before. I feel really rude. Americans are lovely people. In my experience they're always interested in what you have to say and that is what I'd struggle to deal with right now in my weakened state. I just want to sleep.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Extremely Dull Post #2

I'm really not comfortable writing about myself but I've decided to try to stop worrying about it. This is a weblog after all; there's no point pretending that this isn't an exercise in narcissism. All is Vanity. So, I'm going to write stuff about myself and try not to be concerned with the fact that someone in Kuala Lumpur might think I'm an idiot. I should be so lucky. That would mean that I have a reader.

My next post will probably be typed in Myrtle Beach. That is where I'll be for 11 days from Thursday. The company will be great and the weather fantastic. I'll muck about on the beach. I'll eat loads of shellfish and take in a baseball match. I'll drink cheap beer and buy cheap clothes and generally have fun with one of my best friends and his family and friends. Then I'll go to New York. I'll buy more cheap clothes and experience some amazing things in a place that has no parallel anywhere in the world. I'll have a great couple of weeks and I'm looking forward to actually having some interesting things to type because I'm really running low on inspiration here. It's entirely my fault that I rarely see anything that I feel like writing about. There's loads out there but I'm just not interested in any of it right now so I'm reduced to writing about, for example, what I did at the weekend. Which brings me back to the opening paragraph.

I shouldn't be afraid of writing about my life and exposing my feelings, but I am. If there aren't things happening in the world that I care to write about then I should write about my world. And so I will right now. Ready? Are you sure? Okay, that's enough procrastinating, here goes. *Deep breath* I met a girl. She's very nice. I like her. And on saturday I had scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast in the garden at her house whilst the chickens that laid the eggs wandered about around me in the morning sun. It was a very pleasant experience. Right, that's quite enough exposing of feelings for one post, I'm off.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Extremely Dull Post #1

I've just been looking at my most recent entries here and have noticed a change in subject matter from when I first starting posting. My early posts generally involved me choosing a subject and then making snidey comments about said subject. I was hoping to display an incisive wit and, in my terribly biased opinion, there are some bits that I wouldn't be in any great hurry to disown, some bits that maybe raise a chuckle, but absolutely nothing that might have the ghost of HL Mencken worrying about his legacy. I think Jerry Seinfeld has a lot to answer for here. I've spent a lot of time watching a show based upon little other than the ridicule of absolutely everything. But lately my posts don't reflect this and I've found that I'm writing more about events in my own life than I'd originally intended.

So what happened?

I might be that I've realised that whatever I write has probably been written about before more attractively than I can manage. In the same way that I can't see the point of, for example, the existence of any band that sounds like Oasis (because Oasis have done the Oasis sound better than any other band can ever do. Are you listening The View, The Twang etc?) then I can't see any reason to try to make points that other people may have made. Seriously, how can I ever expect to write anything in a wry observational style that hasn't already been done? There can be few phenomena that have yet to be dissected in print so why bother trying to find any?

The answer to this apparently rhetorical question involves the notion of me finding my own voice. I have a unique perspective on life, as everyone does, and one of the reasons I started this blog was to try to work out exactly what that perspective involves. I think I should persevere. So that's settled then. None of this, however, explains why I've been willing to write about myself than I originally thought I would.

I'm going to stop typing here because I've just read through what is already down and found it to be among the most tedious claptrap I've ever had the misfortune to lay my eyes upon. There are poems about how unfair life is written by lovesick teenagers that are less self-absorbed than this rubbish. I'll continue in a few days.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Still Good Times!

How long will my good mood last? Today has been a struggle. My work doesn't stimulate me. I don't ask or expect it to so normally this isn't a problem but today it's really bothering me. I think it's because I've been having such good weekends that the Monday comedown is more pronounced than normal. Actually it's Tuesday, Easter Monday was a Bank Holiday and I did nothing but stay at home and relax after a tiring few days.

I went to stay with Alex on Friday. It seems impossible that I could ever go there and not have the most fun. Every time. Everyone there is completely lovely and I laugh so much that my sides often hurt the next day. My entire body hurt on Saturday but that was more due to the late night and early rise coupled with sleep on a sofa. I can't wait to get back there this weekend

Sunday was spent in Windsor with Lisa and some of her friends. Windsor's a fantastic place to spend summer days. It wasn't quite summer weather on Sunday but it was close enough to sit outside and let time quietly pass. It was another very enjoyable day.

Returning to the question posed in the first sentence: For at least a little while yet. At some point I need to acknowledge that much of life is passing me by and that wasting my days doing a job that means nothing to me or anyone else is unacceptable. I have no great desire to change the World. I just want to do something that I feel I'm suited to, something that makes me feel useful, in a place I feel I belong. But where is that place? I have never, at any point in my life, really known the answer to that question. But it's out there for me somewhere, as it is for everyone, and I'll keep on looking for as long as it takes. And in the meantime I'll continue to face each day with a smile.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Good Times!

It was about this time last week that I emailed Steve to inform him of a provisional timetable of my arrival in Myrtle Beach, and my departure. He replied that it would be good for him if I left a day later - Monday 7th May instead of Sunday 6th. I was happy with this as it meant that I would be there a day longer and the flight was cheaper. All that remained was to wait for Darren to text me back regarding his participation in the trip. As soon as he texted to say no, as I knew he would, I'd book the flight.

That evening I was partaking in my daily post-work-web-surf when I happened upon the news that Arcade Fire were playing in New York on the very Monday that I was leaving America. What an opportunity it would be if I could stop off there for a day and watch the World's best band! Darren's negative response to my text meant that I would only have my own schedule to worry about so it was decided. I was off to New York!

But wait. Why go for just one night? How could I visit New York and then leave before we were barely acquainted? One night became three. I found New York hotels to be pretty costly and I'd be paying the debt off for some time but what the hell? I wouldn't, however, book a thing until I'd secured a ticket to see the mighty 'Fire. They went on sale on Friday afternoon at 3pm and I'd decided that I wanted to see the Wednesday performance at the legendary Radio City Music Hall.

2.38pm Friday. I reach for my wallet to get my credit card. I don't have my wallet. My wallet is in my bedroom and I'm at work. It's okay, Kerri or dad will be home and a quick phone call should resolve any problems. Except they're not at home. Tickets go on sale in 20 minutes and will be sold out in 25. I commandeered a work van and drove as fast as a 1.4 litre Renault diesel engine would take me and was rewarded by getting ready for the ticket release a whole minute early. About 2 minutes later I'd secured a ticket at Radio City, a good ticket in the middle of the floor. I now had no reason to back out of the New York plan!

I should state at this point that I was, and still am a bit, pretty apprehensive about staying on my own in New York. I looked at pictures of the Manhattan skyline with a new curiosity. You check these things abstractly when they don't concern you and more closely when you realise that you'll have to deal with them at some time. It's a big scary-looking place. I'm going to need a proper itinerary or I'll end up wandering around aimlessly and not really seeing or doing anything.

Back to the issues at hand. It's now Saturday morning. I've identified the flights I like and book them. Heathrow - Mytle Beach via Washington, Myrtle Beach - New York via Charlotte, New York - Heathrow via Washington for £463. Adding New York to the itinerary hasn't made things much more expensive but it's probably still more money than I've ever spent on anything in one go, with the possible exception of dental work. I now need to book a hotel but that can wait. I'd feel a little queasy spending much more money in one day than I already have. Nothing much in the social schedule today so I go and do my usual football bet and, for a change, do a 50p lucky 15 on the TV horse races. The races start. my first selection comes in at 12-1 and I'm already up on my day's betting. The second comes in at 13-2 and I'm now sitting on £59 with two horses yet to run. Any winner from these two pays for my flight and more. The third race starts and by now mum and dad are watching and are probably even more nervous than me. My horse, Waterside, is handy throughout and stays on as all the others begin to drop away. He hits the front with a furlong to go and that finish line can't come quickly enough for me. I make a noise something like "AAAARGH!!!" when he crosses the line first. An online odds calculator tells me that I've won £951.50. I still l have one horse to go. If that wins I get something stupid like £23k. It doesn't win and I skip to the bookies and collect my winnings in lovely bundles of £20 notes. It felt fucking great and I could now stop worrying about having to stay in a New York Roach Motel.

I'd promised myself that I wouldn't get drunk on Saturday as it was Glastonbury ticket day on Sunday. But sod it, I was so excited that I wouldn't be sleeping much anyway. And so it proved. I was up on time and made preliminary contact with my fellow campers. There were 10 of us trying for tickets and 9 of us (Me, Kerri, Alex, Dan, Michelle, Laura, Lucy, Smith and James) on Messenger. It proved to be a very handy support group and also a right laugh. None of us were having any joy at all with tickets but were meeting with great success on the piss-taking front. Then, about 45 minutes in, I got a phone call from the only one of our camp not Messengering. Lisa said she had tickets and I nearly wept with joy! Then Michelle got through with tickets for her Lucy and Alex but suffered a power cut right at the end which made everyone panic. Finally, using the link that Lisa had emailed, I got through to the website and phoned Alex who gave me the details of everyone yet to get a ticket. We had all succeeded! As I write, Lisa still hasn't got a confirmation email so we're not completely out of the woods but it should all be okay. It's going to be the best Glastonbury ever!

I met Kerri for a few pints in the afternoon at the Coach & Horses in Ickenham, her new local. Not content with being the most fortuitous weekend in living memory the sun came out and we had the first beer garden pints of the year. The happy glow hasn't yet worn off. I booked a hotel in Times Square yesterday and am all set for America. I really have had a fantastic start to the year and the prognosis remains sunny. Good Times indeed.