Tuesday, May 28, 2002

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (A work in progress)

I didn't cry on September 11.

At least, I don't remember doing so. I don't remember crying the day after. Nor the week after. I'm sure that I cried at least twice since it happened, but despite being constantly exposed to the aftermath of that day (the Missing posters, the flowers, the foul air, etc.), I don't think I was overtly emotional much of the time.

I have now become somewhat unglued twice this week. But I'm not so sure that's a bad thing.

As you probably know by now, HBO ran a fairly gritty documentary on 9/11 in New York this week. This first day that it aired I resolved not to watch it. I told myself that it was exploitative, disgusting, and all in all unhealthy to watch so soon after it happened.

Naturally, I watched it tonight. About two minutes into it I had serious thoughts about turning it off -- and all they had showed at that point is the well-known footage of the initial impact. And there were some points where I clicked it over to VH1 for a minute or two until I felt sure that the troublesome part in question had passed. It was very difficult to watch, because it basically forced me to see everything I saw that day all over again. Surprisingly, I found I was glad that I did.

I remember very clearly the things that I saw when it happened. It's not like it was a blur or that I blocked it out. But I remember regarding it all with a sense of detachment, even bemusement. Well, this is certainly odd. Which sounds terrible. I knew I was supposed to be sad, but I couldn't force myself. When I went to Ground Zero two months later, I felt sick, but not sad. But seeing those images on TV tonight-- seeing the park outside my dorm covered with memorials, the viewpoints from my neighborhood of the Towers -- let me feel what I think I wanted to feel that day, just eight months later.

Like I said, the documentary is extremely difficult to watch no matter where you were on September 11. I wouldn't blame anybody for refusing to watch it, or turning it off in the middle. There's a couple moments that are, in my opinion, pretty gratuitous. But you may try looking at it, even if it's five years down the road. I was sure that if I watched it, I would be blubbering, spouting obscenities, screaming at the wall, or engaging in some other similar anti-social behavior by the end of it. But I'm not. I'm typing this instead, and reading the Onion. Dare I say it, I actually feel a little better. I'm sure I'm not "over it." I don't really think I will be, but I think that's okay. It's part of who I am now, and I can live with that.

Thanks for listening. I promise next time I'll write about puffins or cheesy poofs or Care Bears or sumpin' like that.


Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Smells Like a Beautiful Day

Really lovely weather here today. It actually inspired me to hunt out the sweatsuit and go for a quasi-fitness walk. I don't usually take the opportunity to walk around the neighborhood at 9:30 in the morning. It's rather nice. The sun is bright, but not too harsh. It smells nice this time of year. It smells like trees and flowers and cut grass. If it weren't for the mutilated squirrel corpse in the street and the neighbor informing me that London is "full of A-rabs, y'know," it would be quite idyllic.

My favorite news story du jour is Bono and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's Excellent Adventure. The two of them are running around Africa on fact-finding mission to see how debt aid is being distributed. Which means there are a lot of very amusing photo ops with the very nicely dressed dignitaries and the very scruffy rock star looking at each other sideways. I wish all diplomatic missions could be so entertaining.


Saturday, May 18, 2002

Here a Moby, There a Moby

It's a grand thing when your favorite musician comes out with a new album. For then you can collect a bevy of magazines and television appearances to amuse and delight you.

At least that's what you do if you're a flaming dweeb.

Moby's new album 18 came out this week, and it's quite good. I was a bit concerned when the single We Are All Made of Stars came out. Suffice to say, even if you haven't heard it, the title tells you all you need to know. Whatever you say, Mobes. Stars. Mmm-hmm. Very cute. Now run along like a good little vegan.

But happily, the rest of the album fairly rocks. Pretty stuff. And I got to meet Mr. Moby (again) at a Tower Records signing. Such a nice guy, even if he needs his goofy artist friend to sit next to him and stare dumbly at the fans when they aren't surreptitiously conversing about things that only hipster rock stars and artists converse about. An appearance on Saturday Night Live rounded out a merry Mobylicious week. Gravy.

By the way, if you're planning to take your two-year-old to see the PG-13 Spider Man movie, don't. Trust me. You'll be happier, the kid will be happier, the movie patrons will be happier. Everybody wins. Rent him Bob the Builder instead. You'll be glad you did.


Saturday, May 11, 2002

In Summation...

So this would be the last update from London. I fly back to New York tomorrow and am currently pretty much ready to go.

Is it sad that I have spent an hour and a half of my last day in the computer lab? No one else is here, which is very nice, and I'm rather exhausted. So there's my justification. I did go to the Tate Modern today. This visit, combined with Thursday's jaunt to the Tate Britain, confirmed my unflagging resentment of modern art. I could go on and on (and in fact, I did Thursday night, subjecting poor Christine to a 45-minute tirade), but suffice to say I find it mostly to be a big steaming load.

I liked the Rodin sculpture though. Too bad there were only two.

But why dwell on that? Here are a few reasons why I'm sad to be leaving London:
  • Free museums. Somehow it feels better blowing twenty pounds at the gift shop if you didn't pay five to get in.
  • Historical context. America preserves a square mile of Philadelphia and creates Williamsburg, VA in order to celebrate its 300-year heritage. London sits back and laughs and laughs and laughs.
  • Gratutitous pageantry. They may be a drain on taxes and a gangly brood of anachronisms, but the Windsor dynasty is way more fun (and far less frightening) than the Bush dynasty. And when they decide to party, they do not muck around. Jubilee 2002 versus the inaugural ball? I hardly think there's a comparison.
  • Yellow journalism. London's tabloids achieve heights of tackiness and sensationalism that the New York Post only dreams about. It's the stuff that makes me take the hypocritical stance of abhorring the notion of ever being professionally involved with it, but happily giggling over it in the supermarket checkout.
  • Proximity to Paris.
  • Proximity to Dublin.
  • Professors who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the subjects they teach. Who knew?
  • Regular use of the word loo not as applicable in the U.S.
  • Parks. The well-landscaped, sprawling, lovely Hyde Park beats the overcrowded, over-paved, fishbowl that is Central Park any day of the week. Plus, pelicans at St. James' Park!
  • Fish and chips.
  • Digestive cookies.
  • Padded seats on the Tube.
  • Charing Cross Road and its financially-draining but oh-so-stimulating bookshops.
  • Virgin Radio.

And why it's nice to go back:

  • Paying in pounds is not healthy for students and other living things.
  • As lovely as Britain's museums are, the Met could take any one of them in a fight.
  • The scary public-service announcements have spread to the radio now. Time to leave the country.
  • Moby will be signing CDs at Tower at 4th and Broadway on Tuesday.
  • Living arrangements will no longer be confined to one room.
  • No more feelings of self-righteous indignation after listening to NYU London Students wear their ignorance like a badge of honor ("Omigod, my friend told me the Changing of the Guard is, like, so not worth it. One guy, like, taps another guy on the shoulder and tells him to, like, take a hike. It's, like, f---ing ridiculous, y'know?")
  • Iced tea.
  • Seeing family, boyfriend, friends, kitty, etc.
  • I will now have the opportunity to earn back all the money I squandered this semester.

I believe that covers it. See you Stateside.


Tuesday, May 7, 2002


My final out-of-town excursion took place this weekend with a trip to Bath.

If you're really into architecture, the history of fasion, or Jane Austen, then you need to get yourself over to Bath. If however you're an architecture dilettante, mildly interested in period costuming, and not all that keen on Pride and Prejudice, then save your 30 pounds.

We spent a long time in the Costume Institute, the highlight of which was an exhibit of the Queen's ugly-as-sin dresses over the past 50 years. Since it was May Day (observed), there were festivities afoot, and we saw the Jane Austen dancers get jiggy in the tea room. I did get the chance to participate in some of these dances, which involve a lot of spinning around, skipping and clapping. It's like Gymboree in powdered wigs. Good times.

Crissie and Christine being Austen enthusiasts, we went to the Jane Austen Centre, which I thought was a bit of a rip-off. Jane lived in Bath for five years, and hated it. But that won't stop Bath from milking her passing presence there for all it's worth. She mentioned the city in every one of her six novels you know. And though she didn't live in this house, she lived in one just like it. And did you know that in Jane Austen's time people enjoyed gardening? Here's an exhibit showing a garden such as Jane might have had. That'll be 3.50 please. Don't forget the gift shop.
Although I'm the one who took Crissie and Christine to the Dublin docklands, so I have nothing to say in the matter.


Saturday, May 4, 2002

Harrod's: Hamsters and Super Loos

I am currently mightily torn between wanting to continue writing about Tower Bridge and its effect on traffic on the Thames, wanting to go out somewhere where normal people go on a Saturday night to make mirth, and wanting to take a nap.

I think the nap might win.

I finally visited Harrod's yesterday. Nice place to visit. Any store with its own squad of pipers is okay by me. I was a bit put off by the Dodi and Diana memorial, which features their photographs mounted in some god-awful gold thing, and displays a dirty wine glass from their last dinner together. There's also the "engagement ring" that Dodi supposedly bought the night before, exhibited as a testament to their true love or sumpin' like that. It's surrounded by a fountain and flowers, and a sign saying that it's the only thing in the store you're allowed to photograph. Tacky tacky tacky.

We also had free passes to used the "luxury bathrooms," which would otherwise cost a pound. I was less than impressed. Sure, they were clean and in-laid with marble, and had handcream and nice-smelling soap, but I expected something more. I think they should install one of those Japanese toilets that has a heated seat and a bidet option and plays music and provides its own lemony-fresh scent. Or I saw this toilet in a restaurant in Germany that cleaned its own seat after every flush. The seat rotated and a little spongy thing came down and cleaned it. And it smelled lemony-fresh. Harrod's needs to get hooked up with these Toilets of Tomorrow. Only then will I consider my pound well spent.

I did score myself a mighty fine toy. His name is Herbie the Hamster, and with the power of a single AAA battery he travels all around the room within his trusty plastic ball, bumping into things, and continuing onward. It's quite hysterical.

So the trip to Harrod's was a success, tacky fountains and sub-par potties excluded.


Friday, May 3, 2002

British Library

I went to a wonderful little museum yesterday, not too very far from NYU's digs.

All of the stuff in the British Library's exhibitions used to be at the British Museum, but the collection of documents and manuscripts grew large enough to warrant it's own space in the Library's rather ugly modern building at King's Cross. But the space is small enough that you could make a respectable visit in under an hour -- though you need a little more time to really appreciate it.

Among the highlights are not one, but two original drafts of the Magna Carta (only four survive), as well as the Articles of the Barons that preceded it in 1215. There's Handel's draft of the Messiah and drafts by Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven (Beethoven wrote notes in big, crazy, Van Gogh-esque strokes. I think those two would have gotten along fine, if they didn't kill each other first). Original handwritten manuscripts from Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Shakespeare, and James Joyce -- another kook with deranged handwriting. They also have a lovely collection of illuminated manuscripts and ancient religious texts in Hebrew, Sanskrit, and Arabic. Since you obviously can't leaf through this stuff, you can go to a back room and virtually turn the pages of the Lindisfarne Gospels and Leonardo Da Vinci's notebook on computer.

There was also a nice display of Beatles' lyrics scribbled on napkins, notepads and children's greeting cards where you could see songs like In My Life and Hard Day's Night taking shape. That's one drawback of the information age. I bet musicains don't scribble lyrics on airline cocktail napkins as much anymore. They jot them in their Palm, or some damn thing. Not nearly as romantic, if you ask me.

If you're in London, definitely check this place out. It won't take long, it's not crowded, and, like most museums in London not owned in part by the Windsors, it's free.