Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Friday, February 1, 2013

In Memorium

You may or may not be aware that I am your local expert on fish euthanasia.* Either way, you may be wondering why, and, as per usual, there's a story behind it. Just over two years ago, my roommate Natalie returned from winter break to find that her beta fish, Xiao-wang Li, had contracted some sort of fish fungus while she had been away. Fortunately, our dear friend Jarom had the sense to medicate him during her absence.
* I'm also your local expert on dolphin mating habits, but let's not talk about that. Suffice it to say that I am now afraid of dolphins.

Unfortunately, upon his return to our humble apartment, Xiao's little fishie body soon found it wasn't so compatible with the cool temperature of our apartment, and the fungus came back with a vengeance. Xiao floated in a cloud of his own self-generated gloop, hovering in the same spot in his fishbowl, having lost the will to swim playfully or eagerly chomp on the colorful fish flakes proffered to him each day. At length, Natalie decided that it was too much to see him so unhappy, so unable to live life to the fullest; it became clear that the time had come to escort Xiao-wang Li our of his mortal existence, and pronto.

The excruciating pain of playing mother and murderess to her darling fish was overwhelming, thus I took it upon myself to research the most humane methods of dispatching the poor guy whilst also maintaining easy clean up (hence the decision against tossing him into a running blender). Our home teachers and dinner groupies were summoned to perform the execution** and participate in the funeral and memorial service. Likely, you assume I'm dramatizing.
** Not the only time I've asked home teachers to kill a fish. True story. 

My friends, it gets no more dramatic than this:

Yes, Natalie is wearing my scarf as a shroud and possibly genuinely crying over the dying fish. (I'm only making a little bit of fun. I actually quite admire Nat's desire to take seriously the closure of a mortal probationary period, even that of a fish. I also potentially recognize the drama of the event as a coping mechanism.) (Love you much Natcat901!)

Xiao was submerged in an ice water bath which delivered a short, severe shock to his nervous system and almost instantly ended his life. He then made his way to the Happy Fishbowl in the Sky and we buried his now lifeless form among the bushes outside our living room window.

This story may seem like an odd one to tell at this particular point in time; after all, it's been more than two years since Xiao died. The thing is that lately I've been contemplating euthanasia of another kind. (Don't worry, this isn't about to get political.) And, like Natalie, I feel compelled to mourn, but the poor thing has been dying for months, barely hanging on to life, and seeming to decay before my eyes.

I should probably tell you now that what I'm thinking of killing is … my blog.

That's a strangely painful thing to say. Since I started it freshman year, it's been such a fun journey, figuring out the types of things I like to post and having an outlet for my creative energies and emotions. It's been the most fun when people tell me that they've read it and enjoyed it; few things feel great the way that feels great.

All that being said, over the past few months, I've felt it beginning to fall apart and fall away from me. My posts have been few and far between, and, as the past year has been a wild roller coaster of emotions and experiences, those posts have varied to the extreme--from spiritual to angry to silly. I have been a wildly emotional human, and I've been pretty messy about it. I feel like I've been swinging around a bat of words, letting myself run wild and veritably vomiting verbosely into the void (muahahaha alliteration!), and I'll be the first to admit that I periodically need a little projectile-puke-prose (I will not apologize for this)...

However, this is not what I want my blog to be anymore. And while I could conceivably deconstruct the blog, delete posts as I wish, refurbish it with a new title and theme, and try to rebuild it… I don't want to do that. It seems like a betrayal of the beautifully organic nature of blogs. (Although I recognize the argument could be made that pruning does not constitute an affront to said organic nature.) Right now, I feel a bit like Hades, in one of my all-time favorite movies, Disney's Hercules. He has a conversation with one of his minions that goes a little something like this***:

Hades: How do you kill a god?
Panic: You can't. They're immortal.
Hades: Bingo! They're immortal!
*** I'm calling BS on myself. "A little something"? I know every word in that movie and I could probably perform it verbatim from beginning to end.

So how do I kill a blog? Well, I can't. There's no such thing as blog-euthanasia. All I can really do is abandon it, and leave it to become the desolate ruins of What Once Was. Such is the way of the internet. (You know, you can still go look at Julie Powell's original blog that inspired the book and movie Julie and Julia. It's an awesome, albeit completely hideous, internet relic. Also, lots of profane language, so be warned.)

I suppose, ultimately, I'm not really killing it … I'm just shedding it like a skin that doesn't quite fit me anymore. And that's about all I have for you. The Happy Pessimist (or Happiness Condensed, as it was first titled) is no more, and this … well, this is goodbye.

Adios, Blogger. It's been real.****
****Don't you stop scrolling, ya hear? 

Psh, yeah right
As if I would ever really stop blogging.
Who do you crazies think I am?
Do you even know me?
New host. New title. New blog. 
Watch out.

Monday, October 29, 2012

We are the Panda-Champions

I like you all, so I'm going to share with you one of my favorite things I've cooked in a while as a sort of early-Halloween gift. Heather and I made this rather unusual (but festive!) chili on the fly and it came out super good. So good, in fact, that it won the ward Halloween party chili cook-off. I'm pretty proud of us. Here's an approximate recipe written after-the-fact—I did my best, but you should definitely feel free to adapt it to your own culinary whimsy :) Happy Halloween!

Halloween Harvest Chili 

3-4 sweet potatoes, diced
Olive oil
Sea salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small onions, chopped
1.5 Tbsp rosemary
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
4 cans Great Northern beans
3 cans chicken broth
2 cups milk, divided
1 1/2 tsp chicken flavored bouillon
1 rounded tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp basil
2 Tbsp masa flour (or regular flour)
1 hot yellow pepper (or any hot pepper you like)
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (without shells!)
1.5 cups dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup(ish) of brie, cut into pieces (About 1/2 small wedge. Do what feels right.)

Pre-heat oven to 400°. Line two baking sheets in aluminum foil. In a medium mixing bowl, combine 4 Tbsp olive oil, 1.5 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Add sweet potatoes, toss to coat. Spread evenly on baking sheets. Bake about 8 inches below upper heating element for approximately 20-30 minutes. (I was checking them about every 5 minutes. Take them out when they're sufficiently roasted and "screaming.") Set aside.

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, combine 2 Tbsp olive oil, garlic, onions, rosemary, and cayenne pepper in a large pot. Cook on low heat until onions are translucent. Add chicken, beans, broth, one cup of milk, masala powder, thyme, basil, and whatever other herbs/spices tickle your fancy. Bring to a boil. In a small bowl, mix remaining cup of milk and flour. Add to soup while stirring constantly. 

Cut off the stem of the pepper and cut the pepper in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and white membrane. Flatten each half of the pepper and place skin-side up on an aluminum-foil lined baking sheet (I transferred all the sweet potatoes to one baking sheet, and then re-used the empty one). Broil 4-6 inches below the upper heating element for 8-10 minutes, or until the skins are dark. Remove from oven and wrap foil tightly around them. Take care, as foil will be extremely hot. Let peppers "sweat" in the foil for at least 15 minutes—this makes it easier to remove the skins. (I sped up the process by sticking them in the freezer.) When they're done, peel off the skin. Chop finely and add to pot.  

In small mixing bowl, combine 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp sea salt. Add pumpkin seeds, toss to coat. Place on aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Roast under broiler, about 5 minutes. Add to pot. 

Add sweet potatoes, cranberries, and brie. Stir to help melt brie. Add salt and pepper to taste. (It will definitely need salt ... we added it so sporadically that I have no clue how much it was. So add slowly and taste liberally!)

Serve warm with (homemade) bread!

Also, it looks pretty cute when you serve it in a pumpkin. If you can cut the pumpkin to fit a bowl in it, bigger win for you because you don't have to clean it out all the way :)

Friday, September 28, 2012

In Which I Dodge a Bullet

[If you can't handle a little scandal, 
this is the part where you need to stop reading. 
Consider yourself warned.
For those of you continuing on with us,
this story has a purpose,
so listen closely.]

Some time early last April, a friend (I won't implicate her by name in our shenanigans) and I took a trip to our favorite hot springs. It was an especially emotional night, the kind of night marked by the insatiable need to drive a long ways away and share a full moon with the full moon. We listened to great songs like "Goodbye Earl" by the Dixie Chicks, read essays out loud from Shauna Niequist's collection Bittersweet, and tried to drink Martinelli's (we didn't have a bottle opener, and it's hard with wet hands). We may have even shed some therapeutic tears. It started out as a really good night. 

I should explain the arrangement of these hot springs. There are two, just hanging out in the middle of a cattle pasture, each surrounded by a fence, maybe to keep the cows out, maybe to make it easier to find each of the hot springs. I'm not really sure. At any rate, the spring closest to the parking lot was occupied by a big group of people having a bonfire. We weren't really in the mood to intrude on their rowdy party, so we traipsed through the mud to the next spring which was about a five-minutes' walk across the pasture, and only slightly smaller and cooler than the first. From there, we could still see the bonfire and make out the people around it, but they were far enough away that we didn't particularly worry about them. After all, what would they want with us and our inferior spring?

As I was saying, we were having a good time. There's nothing like a good, warm dip in the middle of a frosty April night to free yourself of frustrations. We were enjoying the freedom and the beautiful night——there was a huge, full moon above the mountains, so bright we didn't even need our flashlights. In fact, we probably would have been more comfortable, swimming at distances as we were from each other, with a little more cloud cover. All the while, I was keeping watch of the other party, hoping they'd wrap things up pretty soon so we'd be able to go enjoy the bigger, warmer pool.

At some point, however, something happened: I was trying to bust our Martinelli's open on a rock when my friend suddenly said, "Oh my gosh, who is that?" Leaning on the outside of the fence, fully back-lit by the full moon, was the silhouette of a rather burly young man. He wasn't moving, wasn't talking ... just standing there, looking at us. We, of course, were up to our chins in the water since the air was cold, but we were instantly terrified. When we talked about it later, we both admitted that our first instinct was, "This is a demon from another world." He was that creepy, just standing there, not moving, not reacting. 

Call me stupid, but aside from the short-lived fear that this might be some apparition from hell, I didn't think much of my own safety. Instead, I got defensive. I grabbed a towel and started talking to him. I should say talking at him, because he didn't respond. After several minutes of yelling at him for being a creepy pervert who needed to get lost, he finally turned and started walking away. It was only then that I noticed two more guys on the north side of the spring (their view was definitely obscured by the rocks, so don't be scandalized. I really don't think anyone saw anything). Not one of them said a word; they just started slowly walking away until they were about 100 yards from the spring, at which point they started laughing and ran back to their lame bonfire. 

Needless to say, we were not pleased with the Creeper Peepers. We made ourselves decent, collected our possessions, and made a run for it. A pair of flip-flops was sacrificed in the deep mud of our return path (no way were we going near that bonfire group) and we quickly jumped into the car and headed back towards Provo. For the entire drive, we were filled with the pervading unease of those who have narrowly missed a potentially awful experience. My friend was, perhaps, more shaken up about what could have happened; I was mostly preoccupied with a sense of disgust at their behavior. I was angry that these jerks, who couldn't have known what was actually up (so nakie), had intended to harass us, and ended up being total creeps. Ultimately, neither of us were hurt by the experience, although we're certainly more cautious when we chunky dunk nowadays. 

This story is definitely one of my more interesting memories of the year, and I sure enjoy telling it. However, the reason I'm telling you this story is not for the sake of the story itself, but because of its metaphorical value and because I feel the same right now as I did driving away from those hot springs: a little shaken up, sure, but not hurt. Just glad that nothing really happened and that no harm was done to anyone I care about. But most of all, thoroughly disgusted that some people are so selfish, so deceitful, and so malicious in their treatment of others. It's sick. People like that are the reason people like me have trust issues. You'd think you'd be able to avoid them; you'd think you'd be able to just go into your own little private place and be happy and unbothered. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. You can't always just avoid things all on your own. 

There's this great part in Pride and Prejudice where Lizzie has just received the news of Lydia running away with Mr. Wickham. You know the scene. She's crying, wringing her hands, talking to Mr. Darcy, and mourning the terrible trouble that her sister has gotten into by running away with the most despicable womanizer among the whole of her acquaintance. When she's finally able to compose herself, she says:
"I might have prevented all this 
by being open with my sisters." 

How poignant is that? She and Jane had been worrying so much about saving Wickham's (and Darcy's) reputation and giving Wickham the benefit of the doubt that they let someone they loved get sucked into a living nightmare. To be fair, by the end of it, it seems Wickham's drawn the short stick in that relationship because Lydia is cray. But most of us are going to meet our own Mr. Wickhams in our lives, and a good portion of the time, our friends are going to be too polite and too kind to give us the head's up. We're going to go off thinking everything is fine, when the reality is that everything sucks and we just haven't realized it yet. Alas, we won't have Mr. Darcys to save the day when we've sunk ourselves that far into the muck. We're just going to be stuck being abused and abandoned by the dirtbags that don't actually care about us. The way I see it, we're all in trouble unless we do something to stop it. So consider this post a warning, my sweet, darling friends—a warning and a pledge. 

First, a warning that there are wolves in very convincing sheep's clothing. If things seem like they could be too good to be true, there's a very good chance that they're false. Keep your eyes open.

And second, a pledge——that I will never hold my tongue when I've seen the fangs of the wolf beneath that that fluffy, white, harmless-looking pelt. No one deserves an unexpected bite, especially when someone nearby saw it coming from a mile away.

It might sound like I'm condoning gossip, and maybe I am, but for me it comes down to the question of whether I'm going to be polite to people, kind to them, or do right by them. And while what I have to say about certain people may not be polite or kind, I hope that I only do it in trying to do right by you, in trying to protect you from the wolves and Wickhams out there.

It's true, we don't want to be poisonous back-biters who give people undeserved reputations. But frankly, I'd rather give someone a bad reputation (especially if they do deserve it) than watch them wreak emotional havoc on someone I care about. Personally, I praise the heavens above that I had a decent group of friends who took the time to do this for me today, unpleasant though it was to hear. 

Let's do each other a solid, ladies. Let's do right by each other. Please?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Goodbye London, Hello 'Merica ... two weeks late

So, I haven't blogged in nearly a month--not for real. I've got a couple drafts lying around that just never got posted, and you can't always post these things when you're not in the moment anymore ... Which is why I need to get this obviously necessary post off my chest before it just gets embarrassingly late.

Thirteen days ago, I left London. (Okay, it's already embarrassingly late.)

I got up at five in the morning on Monday, August 6th. I had intended to sleep in until at least six or seven, since I didn't have much of anything left to do at the flat, but the cat, Moppet, had woken me up to let him out and I just couldn't get back to sleep thanks to my bizarro travel-excitement-slash-anxiety (which had been building for days, especially once Averyl left on Friday because that was just depressing). With the abundance of time, I turned on Olympic Breakfast on BBC and took my own sweet time doing all the moving-out things. Finally, it was nearly eight, so I got my suitcase, my ridiculously heavy carry-on (I had to put all of my books in it because they were too heavy to go in my suitcase. Boo.), and my enormous backpack, and headed for the bus stop.

I caught the 121 for the last time somewhere around 8:02 in the morning and took the 20 minute ride to Oakwood Station, where I got on the Piccadilly Line. Oakwood is the second-to-last stop on the northernmost end of the line (the last stop is called Cockfosters ... ) and I was bound for Heathrow Terminal 5—the very last stop on the southernmost end. I was on there for somewhere around an hour and a half. It wasn't the fastest way there, but it was the way that involved the least amount of suitcase dragging, so I think it was worth it. Plus, getting on so early in the route meant that all the luggage areas were free, and I would be able to sit right next to it. (Remember what I said earlier about travel anxiety? You have no idea how much time I spent thinking about this garbage.) (I also just want to point out that when I arrived at the Tube stop for Heathrow Terminal 5, I had accurately estimated a 2 hour trip within sixty seconds. That's pretty impressive. Just sayin'.)

I didn't know this, having only flown in to Heathrow and not ever out of Heathrow, but their baggage check and security lines are slick. I was through both of them in less than ten minutes. Another (un)fortunate side-effect of my travel anxiety is that, instead of falling to pieces, I get horrifically efficient and almost machine-like in my manner. I mean, it's good ... but it's not so great when you give yourself a comfortable time cushion, and then that time cushion gets ridiculously huge because you're being such a travel-boss, the airport's being awesome at doing what they do, and then your plane gets delayed. So I sat in the airport for over an hour.

A little bit about the airport, for those of you who care... it's quite posh. All Dolce & Gabbana and a miniature Harrod's and Bulgari and Coach and Gucci and Dior and Prada and Tiffany & Co. and whatnot. What was most ridiculous to me was that there were actually people buying things. You don't go to an airport to shop! Everything in airports is like twice as expensive as it is outside the airport! And who even wants to have extra crap to carry?? It was absurd.

But let's get moving because there's a lot more story to tell and so far, I'm still in London.

My plane was supposed to depart at 12:15 for Toronto. It didn't quite make that, and we ended up being at least a half an hour late, if not more, due to some minor doohickey requiring engineer sign-off. We also got the great news that there was a strike going on with the caterers in Toronto which meant that the plane had to carry the food for its outgoing and return trips. Apparently, this didn't change much of anything except that the trays were smaller. Whatever. The flight to London was much more magical than the flight out of London ... I guess they're more concerned with impressing new visitors on the way in than after they've finished with the country. All that being said, they did have The Avengers on demand, and what with my brand-spankin'-new Tom Hiddleston obsession, I was on that like white on rice.

I think I was also going a little nutty at this point from all the travel anxiety; I knew I had a speedy connection to make in Toronto, and every minute that ticked by on the ground at Heathrow was another minute I'd be spending running through the Toronto airport like a chicken with my head cut off.

Once we were off the ground, things started getting better. The weird thing about an eight-hour flight is that it feels like it's never going to end, but when it's over, it doesn't feel like it's been eight hours at all. Especially when you're flying east-to-west because you're pretty much going backwards in time. Of course, the on-demand movies and TV really help. In addition to The Avengers, I watched Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and a few episodes of Modern Family. Aaaaannnndddd I ate a lot of food :)

Anyways, we arrived in Toronto I think around 4:00ish in the afternoon [8:00 p.m. London time]. The airport was weird--the terminal we arrived in was really empty and deserted looking, but then it just got more and more crowded as we went along. I was racing through, bumping into people left and right. Then the line for immigration was ridiculous. Freaking Canada. Fortunately, I didn't have to wait at all in the connections line and basically got straight to the counter, although I was a complete nervous wreck by this point.

Then came the waiting for the baggage. What a nightmare. My need to arrive at airports early is really an issue because I think there's some evil magic that happens that means they put my bags on the plane first ... and then they have to come off last. I swear, my bag is always one of the last ones to come down onto the stupid conveyor belt. It's obnoxious. I finally got it, ran past a pack of elders, and then went upstairs to check my bag for my next flight.

Unfortunately, the travel gods were not smiling upon me, and I was too late to check in at the kiosk. So then I had to talk to a real person (always the worst) ... and they told me I was going to miss my flight to Chicago. Well, that wasn't awesome, but I figured it would be okay. Then I heard these words:

"We're not going to be able to get you into St. Louis tonight."

I literally started crying that instant. Because at this point, I've been awake and busy and anxious and travelling for approximately 15-16 hours, which is about the amount of time I typically spend awake before going to bed, except that I knew I had two more planes and two hours in the car minimum standing between me and my bed.

Oh, and let's not forget the fact that I'd been waiting for this day since before I even left the States. You don't just tell a girl who's been waiting to come back home since before she even left three months ago, and tell her that she's going to have to sleep in an airport and wait until the next day to go home. You just don't. And if you do, she's going to cry in public and humiliate herself. The only good thing about crying in public is that people really want to make you stop, which means that the wonderful employee at the desk got the manager's approval to re-route me to Kansas City that night at no extra charge.

I got a hold of my family, let them know I was due to arrive in KC at 11:45 p.m. [5:45 a.m. London time] and went through customs and security. The customs agent was not pleased to welcome me back to America. I didn't really care. I waited in the Toronto airport for a couple of hours before I finally found myself with a seat on an over-booked plane (it was overbooked before they booked me on it, so I don't feel totally bad for taking someone's spot). The flight was slightly delayed, but hey, I was going to sleep in my own bed and not in an airport and that was good enough for me. I got to sit on my favorite kind of airplane seat (aisle AND window at the front of the plane with no pesky people stealing your armrests--every good thing you can have in an airplane seat, in my opinion) and the steward gave me the whole can of Diet Coke (caffeine SO needed at this point, obviously). It was great. 

The Chicago airport is my favorite. Best bathrooms of all time. If you've been there, you understand; if you haven't, the toilets automatically dispense plastic sanitary covers onto the seats, which is aaaaaamazing. (It's  all about the little luxuries of life, y'all. Appreciate them, dang it.) Of course, the travel gods were still holding me in contempt and my plane was yet again delayed, but not by too very much. Just enough to annoy me.

The flight from Chicago to Kansas City was alright. Apparently I used up all of my good-seat points on the previous flight, because I ended up in a middle seat with people on either side of me. I almost couldn't remember the experience because I was so tired that I fell asleep before they even did the safety thing. I don't think we'd even left the gate yet. When I woke up just a few minutes before we landed, my knee was touching that of the guy next to me ... nothing like a little unintentional intimacy with a stranger to alarm you back into full consciousness.

We landed in Kansas City just a few minutes after midnight, and since my mom and Alyssa hadn't arrived yet, I headed down to baggage claim to get my bag. As per usual, it was ridiculously slow in making it off the plane, but it got there safe and sound and intact, which is more than some people get.

The drive from Kansas City to Jefferson City is approximately three hours. At 2:20 a.m. [8:20 a.m. London time], we stopped in a McDonald's parking lot to take a nap. It was only supposed to be twenty minutes or so, but we all just passed out and slept for a full hour. When we woke up, we went through the drive-thru. I had a McGriddle. Definitely an ideal first-meal-back-in-'Merica. I have exactly zero regrets on that front. It was delicious. Once that was all done, we kept driving and made it back to the house around 4:30-5ish a.m.—which is nearly 11 a.m. London time.

So, if you were keeping count, I got up at 5 a.m. Monday morning and didn't make it to my bed until 11 a.m. Tuesday morning, on my London clock. That is a lot of hours. 30 hours, to be exactish. Especially since Tube, plane, airport, and car sleep don't count at all in situations such as these. Luckily enough, I didn't have any weird sleeping habits in getting over jet lag. I got right on a normal sleeping schedule. Sure, it took a few days for my mood to catch up with me, but that's still pretty good, I think. Now, I'm home. For the next few days anyways. On the 23rd, it's back to Provolone . . .

I definitely didn't intend for this to become a long story of my trip home, but I guess it's all I really have to say. I'm sure you all expected something a little more ... London-y. A little more conclusive, explanatory, descriptive. But to be honest, I don't think you're ever going to see anything like that. Not for a long while anyways.

You see, there's this problem about experiences like these in that you can tell little stories of little things that happened here and there ... but I'm never going to be able to put into words any kind of succinct statement of what those three months were. With all the words in the world, I don't think I'd ever be able to make anyone fully understand what they were like. It's incredibly frustrating for someone like me who likes to tell the long story and give the full explanation (Exhibit A: The previous twenty-two paragraphs of travel vomit that I deposited on you. (Twenty-two?! I am out of control. And I'm amazed if you made it all the way down here. Good job you! I will totally give you a gold star sticker if you want one because you're a freakin' trooper!)). It's so hard to know that I will never be able to have someone else understand exactly what my experience in London was; it's an incredibly lonely feeling.

But then again, I guess life's all like that. We're all just doing things and experiencing things and nobody really understands everything exactly the way that anyone else does because they can't experience it exactly the same way.

It being Sunday, I find it very appropriate to take a moment and just say how glad I am that Christ understands us perfectly. I'm so glad that He knows exactly what we've been through, exactly the way we feel, and exactly what we need to be able to move forward. It makes life so much easier, so much less lonely, to know that He is there, to know that no matter how much it seems like no one understands ... He does.

That's all I've got for you today :)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Rather Short Long Story

It was as I was standing on a stool in the kitchen 
with a purple polka dotted towel tied precariously around my waist 
after having taken my first adult-sponge bath, 
leaning over the wet microwave on the counter 
and a sink full of dirty dishes and white carnations 
with the cabinet door jamming into my shoulder, 
and staring as water transferred from the enormous bowl under the boiler 
to the measuring cup I was holding, 
elbows resting awkwardly on the wet microwave, 
through a siphon I'd crafted from blue and pink bendy straws, 
that I found myself wondering, 
How was your Saturday night?

Thursday, June 28, 2012


This past Wednesday night, I made a most astonishing discovery. It came upon me as we were walking from The Globe after a particularly risquĂ© performance of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Loathe though I am to admit it, I prefer the Heath Ledger/Julia Stiles interpretation, most especially, now, for the lack of blinding white full-moon-light (if you catch my drift …) involved. At any rate, I think 10 Things I Hate About You injected a fair portion of romance that the original play lacks, and this lack of romance, in combination with the aforementioned moonlight, left me feeling somewhat less than amorous.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that London is quite, well … romantic. (Or, as Averyl would put it, “ro-tic,” since there was actually no “man” involved.) We had walked out of the theater and were crossing Millennium Bridge (the one the Death Eaters destroy in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which is how I recognized it) when this enormous and potentially summer-changing discovery occurred. 
Death-Eater-ized Millennium Bridge
Real Millennium Bridge
I should point out that Averyl and I had had a conversation a few hours earlier about how sometimes you want to jump off a bridge, just for the thrill of it, but looking at the Thames quashes that desire almost instantaneously. It’s a foul, filthy, brown river with outrageous quantities of rubbish floating in it. I mean, it is really disgusting. The kind of thing that would make you want to bathe in bleach if you ever accidentally touched it. Visually, it has no redemptive qualities, in my opinion.

Anyways, as I was saying, we were walking over the Thames on Millennium Bridge. It was pretty late, as the play had started at 7:30, so obviously it was dark outside which meant that you couldn’t tell that the river was brown anymore. Instead, all you could see were the reflections of lights on the water, just sparkling all twinkly-like. Each of the bridges were lit up and looking ever so lovely, and the absolute treat of it all was looking at St. Paul’s Cathedral sitting right at the end of the bridge. The way it’s lit up at night is like seeing life in high-definition—by which I mean that when you look at St. Paul’s at night, you feel like you’re seeing more of it, crisper details. Maybe it’s just the fact that my eyes have been afflicted by allergies and my contacts seem to get dirty fairly easily and quickly, so it’s entirely possible that my vision is usually diminished. But that cathedral… Wow. It was a remarkable sight.
Millennium Bridge at night
I suppose this whole thing is a little pathetic. After nearly two months of living here, you would think that I’d have discovered the city’s romantic side. I know that, more often than not, I’m the kind of girl that enjoys romance in movies and books and all, but not in real life because I just can’t get into it without feeling Kraft Mac’n’Cheese “The Cheesiest” … but even still. You’d think you’d be able to drop an English major who lives on a steady entertainment diet of Masterpiece and 19th century novels, and expect her to immediately realize the romantic potential of one of the world’s greatest cities.

But not so! During the daytime, I’ve got a pessimist’s eye for tourists (because, as a 3-month resident, I’m allowed to hate them a little bit) and pigeons (sorry Natalie J!) and litter and expense … and frankly I’m getting more than a little tired of having Fifty Shades of Grey coming out of my nose every time I've spent a few hours in the city. (I’m also obviously more than a little judgmental of seeing so many women reading Fifty Shades of Grey on the tube. Shouldn’t they be a little more embarrassed to be reading that filth in public?)

As for my perceptions of the city come nightfall, if I’m ever out alone past dark (which happens very, very rarely), I basically feel like I’m walking through a death trap that’s riddled with people who want to mug, rape, murder, or take me and sell me into an eastern European human trafficking ring. Don’t worry—I’ve imagined the entire spectrum of horrors that could potentially befall me on my five minute walk from the train station to my front door.

Anyways, I’m getting away from my point (as always), so I suppose I’d best get to it: friends, it is a curious coincidence that in the very same week that I discover the truly romantic potential in this enormous city, I should also fall in love.

Yes, it’s true: I have somehow, magically, mysteriously, and beautifully fallen in love …

... with buses.

Oh, boohoo. Don’t pretend to be disappointed and get your pants (that's British English for "underwears") in a twist. Just calm down and let me tell you about buses and why I’m hopelessly in love with them.

London’s double-decker buses are iconic—of this you are almost certainly aware. They’re as “London” as Big Ben and probably the most frequent way of establishing modern London as the setting in a movie. When you get to London, you can’t help but smile the first time you lay eyes on that flashy cherry paint … and sometimes you can’t help it even after you’ve seen hundreds of them. (Not gonna lie, I’m significantly more likely to smile if it comes with a Magic Mike advert. I won’t ever see that movie, but I can guiltlessly enjoy the fruits of the advertising campaign.) They’re just cheery, and since much of London is a generally grayish-brown sort of color, that pop of red is lovely. Plus, red is my favorite color. I’m naturally predisposed to love setting my eyes on them.

I’ve ridden on plenty of buses recently, but during my first month here, I tried to avoid them since they are much slower than the tube, and besides that, expensive, especially considering how long it takes to get anywhere. Because of all this, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I first got the chance to ride in the front seats on the second deck of the bus. Riding in any of the other seats, even on that second deck, pretty much feels like riding on any lame old bus anywhere. It’s not a big deal at all. The front seats, however, are like a theme park ride. A really slow and lurchy theme park ride, but certainly more exciting than anything else. You’re right up against the glass and you get an awesome view of where you’re going. It’s so much fun to just watch the people down on the street, and the number of times you think you’re going to hit something (or someone) is so high that you almost feel dangerous. Hark back to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and recall the scene where Harry’s on the Knight Bus, and it squeezes between two double-deckers—you have no idea how accurate of a portrayal that is. Buses are reckless and exciting and I just love them.

Another reason I love buses is that they’re a great way to explore the city without having to walk a million miles. Several weeks ago, I walked twelve and a half miles around London with a hefty backpack and lousy shoes, so I feel qualified to tell you that if you want to really get a good view of London, get a picture of what it looks like and feels like and moves like, you need to spend some time on a bus. Yes, get off every now and then to see the museums and get lunch. (I don’t recommend eating on the bus, both because of the non-optional exchange of hand-sweat from touching the handrails, and because it’s kind of gross to be on public transit and smelling someone else’s lunch, especially if it’s hot and a badly ventilated bus.) By all means, get a closer look. But buses let you see so many interesting things! And they don’t make your feet hurt for days afterwards.

A couple of days ago, I went out searching for this new style of bus that they’ve just developed. I think there’s only one or two in service, and they’re only running on one route right now, but they’re beautiful things. They bring back the old Routemaster style—the kind that lets you hop on the back whenever the bus is stopped, which is something you really come to appreciate after the tenth time you’ve missed a bus by ten seconds and have to wait for another 12 minutes for the next one to come.
Check that back end out. Dat a bootylicious bus right thurr.
...Since I'm being so PC, go watch Beauty and the Beat.
Anyways, I wasn’t bored enough to wait for it to come along the route, so I just got on one of the other buses and took it all the way to the end (though I did catch a few glimpses of this spectre-of-the-transport-gods). I had intended to get off and go to a park to read and work, but then it was raining when I got off so I figured, heck I can read as well on a bus as on a park, so why not get back on? And that’s what I did. I just rode buses around London for a few hours, and it was fabulous. I got to sit in the front seats, and it was a lovely day though I didn't get very much reading done because I was enjoying the ride so much.

I should point out that buses are great for leisurely experiences. They’re absolutely wonderful if you don’t really care where you’re going or when you get anywhere. They are, however, a nightmare if you want to get anywhere at any specific time. Today, for example, we missed our train and so we had to take a bus to another tube stop. (Then I had to take the Underground to an Overground station, take the Overground to get on another Underground line to get to the stop I needed. Talk about your transportation mess.) I was probably on that bus for over half an hour. It was delightfully sweltering outside today which was a grand break from the typical chilly wetness, but the heat is not so delightful when you’re trapped in a metal box with twenty other people. Especially when that box is a single-decker without any of the lovely front seats. If I could have sat in some of those, it would have been much more bearable. Instead, it was a bumpy, lurching oven of body stink that periodically stopped for no reason or person at all. I was not overjoyed because I hate being late, I hate making other people wait for me. It’s a pain in the neck on its own without the added misery of an unpleasant journey.

Perhaps at this point you're thinking me a fool for loving the buses so much. And yet, such is love, is it not? I mean, sometimes you’re just into something that’s great for leisure and entertainment and fun, but not so great for when you’re actually trying to go anywhere with any sort of haste or accomplish anything according to any kind of schedule.

Consider me a hopeless victim of the Transport for London game. I’m a lost cause, for the next thirty-nine days, at least.