Since moving to London, I’ve been a good little consumer. Turns out I spent most of my money on food and booze. Such is the life of a fat person/alcoholic/modern-day Falstaff. Here’s where the money has gone to:
Aladdin/Brick Lane Spice House: There are a lot of cheap little Indian (or Bangladeshi) food restaurants up and down Brick Lane. Stopping in there for lunch really breaks up the week. Garlic naan + samosas + vegetable curry + wine = foodgasm. Though if I’m walking down the street with one or more people I will get hassled by restaurant guys trying to offer us a meal deal. It’s like the crack dealers in Brixton, but with curry.
All Star Lanes: More Brick Lane love. All Star is a bowling alley-meets-American-style diner, rife with retro, Quentin Tarantino-esque trappings of Americana. Unlike an American diner, however, it is way overpriced. I had the vegetarian version of a full English breakfast and it was delicious. The brunch menu comes with ‘bottomless coffee’ except instead of the waitress pouring it for you from a jug like at IHOP, the guy at the counter had to roast each cup in an espresso machine. Oh, Europe, I’ll miss you.
St. John’s Bread and Wine: For my roommate’s 21st birthday, we went to this chill butcher-table restaurant for gourmands. I just had bread and wine and madeleines, but my more adventuresome foodie friends ate things like ox tongue, ox heart, foie gras, swaledale mutton, faggot & mash, and plaice. Ya know, offal just to represent.
Goddamn Jimmy, this some gourmet shit.
We also watched a party of 20 Chinese people eat an entire spit-roasted pig. The pig came out on a cart covered in goo with like an apple hanging out of its mouth, and the chef cut off the head and plopped it on a plate in front of the birthday girl.
Gordon’s Wine Bar: Lovely wine bar close to Embankment. I went there on a date, I might as well say. It’s literally a wine cellar, an underground cave with a low ceiling and close-together tables lit by candlelight, very romantical. It looks like this:
Note: the guy in the picture was not my date. (I wish!)
The Lexington: A bunch of us went to this bar in Angel/Islington that’s all red velvet curtains and chandeliers. I don’t have much to say about this place, as I don’t really remember it. One gripe regarding its architectural design: it was necessary to go down a flight of stairs in order to smoke. Consequently I fell down the stairs and slammed my knee into the floor and this French guy I was talking to at the time was all “Sacre bleu! Zut! Ça va?” The ensuing bruise was like a kaleidoscope. Also I kissed a girl. This is the most drunk I’ve been in London.
As an aside/reminder to my friends, someone should really just force me to go home if I do one or more of the following: a. repeat myself b. offer to pay for drinks c. run out into traffic d. fall down a flight of stairs e. get separated from the group f. talk to French guys.
Also in Angel, there is a retro theatre where one night I got to see Raiders of the Lost Ark on the big screen. Unfortunately I was under the influence of a pint of Guinness and two pints of Staropramen and promptly fell asleep. I dreamt that I was Marion Ravenwood and you were Harrison Ford and we were in the Well of Souls and it was filled with Guinness! Not really.
Southwark Tavern: For a classy St. Patrick’s Day celebration, I pregamed with a 3 litre bottle of Cobra, which I figured was roughly the UK equivalent of a 40 of King Cobra, but is, in fact, 2.5 times greater in volume and actually very watered down beer—as weak as American tea! So then we went to go hang out with Yuri’s best new British pal, Peter, down at The Southwark Tavern, a charming pub next to Borough Market. I drank Brooklyn Lager and progressed to whiskey. Yuri’s best gay pal’s friends included a ginger who was wearing a Canadian tuxedo and smoking Richmonds and a hipster dude with a porn ‘stache who works at a sex shop on Old Compton Road that’s disguised as a men’s haberdashery. Also Yuri was hit on by a man whom, I thought, in my drunken haze, resembled in visage and in cackle the leprechaun from the Leprechaun movies.
Speaking of Peter: Yuri met him in line for the bathroom at the Vauxhall Griffin—which we did not realize was a gay bar until we went there. He took a picture of us there:
Asians are my life? Also, check out the guy in the background with the moustache.
A few days later, Peter invited us to go to karaoke with him at Lucky Voice. Despite a strong inherent aversion to karaoke, I went. We drank Asahi—which I spiked with Waitrose generic brand vodka—and belted out some gems, such as “Karma Chameleon” and “Train in Vain” and “Valerie.” I met the inimitable Howard, an interior designer who had broken up with his boyfriend that very day. I, too, had been experiencing some heartache, so we sang The Smiths, obviously.
Also one night I ended up in Soho at a bar called The Admiral Duncan, where in 1999 a neo-Nazi planted a nail bomb that killed three people, including one pregnant woman, and injured dozens of others. I think the neo-Nazi sympathized with the Dutch. But seriously though…it was a terrible tragedy. Anyway I was there for a birthday party for someone I didn’t know, with someone I didn’t really know, and I was drunk when I went and didn’t stay for very long so it’s hardly worth mentioning at all, really.
Bea’s of Bloomsbury: Went to this cute little afternoon tea place near Chancery Lane for their annual Mad Hatter Tea Party. It was a fucking orgy of red velvet cupcakes, snickerdoodles, baguettes, scones with clotted cream and jam, square mango-coconut marshmallows, pound cake, and unlimited tea. I almost ate myself to death. All the staff dressed up as characters from Alice in Wonderland and it was adorably decorated and there was croquet, but I was too distracted by my insatiable apetite and downward spiral of self-loathing to really notice; I was more animal than human at that point. This will go down as one of the most memorable binge-eating experiences of my life.
The Orangery: In Kensington Gardens, next to Kensington Palace, there is a restaurant called The Orangery with white pillars and statues and big open windows framing the blue sky.
I had rose hip tea and a buffalo mozzarella, tomato, and walnut salad. I looked out the window at Kensington Palace, where Charles and Diana and Princes William and Harry used to live. It was beautiful. Then Livy and I walked through Hyde Park. It was sunny. It was spring time. Couples were making out everywhere—meanwhile, I was reeling from the previous night’s tea party and that morning’s punitive spin class. We walked home to Sorbonne House and the rose hips put me to sleep.
Now, to subsist off ramen for the summer. Good thing I romanticize the bohemian lifestyle.
I never, ever want to go home, because I haven’t got one anymore.
I’ll never be I’ll never be I’ll never be I’ll never be young again.
I can already tell this 12 Steps gimmick is starting to wear thin. Here’s Part 2 anyway.
Step 5: Admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Check, check, and check, assuming God and at least one other person reads my Tumblr.
Step 6: Be entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Milan. This great cathedral overwhelms the shopping district, like a testament to the power of religion over a culture obsessed with material possessions.
Duomo di Milano
The two opposing forces of Catholicism and consumerism converge at little stands that sell postcards and magnets with pictures of the duomo on them.
At night it glows brilliantly white against the dark sky, like a TV.
Down on the street everyone’s all leather and lipstick and heels. The girls are Jane Birkin and the guys are James Dean. Aesthetically-pleasing details: Velma Dinkley glasses, bicycles with baskets, the checkerboard Prada heels, swaths of neon fabric, GQ motherfucker Versace suits, Guy Rover patterned button-ups, girls in knee socks, loafers without socks, porno staches.
Everyone looked like a model or a member of some rock band, like the pristine, well-bred children of the fucking wealthy.
In Milan we stayed with Militza’s childhood friend from Bulgaria, a fashion student named Beata. In Bulgaria, Beata said, if you wanted anything special, you had to make it yourself. Her designs all have something special or unique about them—a lavendar mac with intricate shoulder detail, a gray skirt with geometric patterns carved out in bright yellow thread. Her apartment is artful and lovely—sunny rooms with white walls, contrasting black shelves, orange vases, laundry hanging in the bathroom, a dress form in the corner, boxes of thread and scissors and sketch books.
She has a balcony with a view of the city, but she’s homesick.
Step 7: Humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.
Next to the Duomo Piazza, there’s a shopping mall full of Neoclassical architecture, with a glass roof. On the tile floor there’s this mosaic of a bull.
You’re supposed to put your heel on the bull’s testicles, spin around and make a wish. It’s impossible to do without falling over. I didn’t ask God to remove all of my faults, but I made a wish that would require the surmounting of some deep personal flaws. I can’t tell you what it was, obviously, or it won’t come true.
Anyway it’s humbling to make a wish. It’s humbling to fall over in front of a bunch of sweatpants-clad tourists outside of a baroque McDonald’s.
Steps 8 & 9: Make a list of all the persons we have harmed, and make amends to them all.
Sorry random French guy, I was so mean to you.
Poor Marco. He just wanted to party.
Sorry panhandler, I know you just wanted money for Africa. I didn’t give you any.
Sorry other panhandler, we weren’t laughing at you. We were just really high. If it makes you feel any better, we bought a few dozen of your roses. We didn’t get any passport photos taken, but I’ve never seen anyone with a passport photo that was taken outside in some alleyway, so you should probably stop offering that service anyway.
Sorry to everyone I bumped into with the bumper car at the gypsy carnival behind the Castello Sforzesco.
Sorry Milan Public Transit, for all those times I didn’t validate my ticket.
Sorry to all the baby squid I ate in that inky-black risotto. You tasted like a newspaper in food form.
Step 10: Continue to take a personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admit it.
Italy offers much in the way of vice and pleasure; just ask Berlusconi. The prime minister’s ongoing legal issues have included a litany of bribery, corruption, and mafia collusion charges, but we when we were there, he was on trial for allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute. We passed through anti-Berlusconi/Lega Nord demonstrations in public squares. On the red metro wall, white spray paint screamed, “Bunga Bunga + Cocaina/Berlusconi ti rapina.” This couplet refers to Berlusconi’s infamous Bunga Bunga parties, which took place in his villa near Milan. At these sexy sex parties, allegedly, Berlusconi would blow coke off big-titted teenagers and supply them with drugs and stuff. Italy: a country where the head of government behaves like Justin Timberlake’s character in the Facebook movie.
Anyhow, like Berlusconi, I am a hedonist. But instead of cocaine or orgies, Milan fed my appetite for amazing gelato and wine and coffee.
An unholy convergence of guilty pleasures occurred at aperitivo at a bar called Exploit. Aperitivo is essentially a buffet that you get for free with a drink, which is something of a wet dream of mine. I had white wine; 9 fucking Euro, baby, but I made the most of it by making like four trips to the buffet. Foccacia, cheesy bread squares, mini pizzas, fruit, salmon, fried potato balls, cheese balls—I was told this was a subpar aperitivo, but like, whatever. At Exploit we met up with Mili’s friend Vlado, who brought with him his Polish friend Jan and a Georgian guy I knew only as Prince Caspian. Prince Caspian was dressed in head-to-toe black, including a black turtleneck and jaunty black scarf. The Eastern Europeanness was, frankly, overwhelming.
So I was up at the bar making a necklace of fried potato balls with my skewer, when suddenly the bartender gifted me with a CD. It was the Exploit soundtrack! Nonetheless I pretended it was a mixtape he had prepared personally for me, imagining that he admired my dedication to starches, knowing that we would bond over our mutual love of alcohol and working in the food service industry.
Anyway, then Prince Caspian and Jan and Beata and I went to go smoke pot. We stood outside for a while by the park that stretches between the basilica San Lorenzo and the basilica Sant Eustorgio, where public hangings of condemned commoners used to take place.
Eastern Europeans may be immune to alcohol, but they get high like total squares. It made me really happy. P.C. just wouldn’t stop giggling. It was a real contrast to his existentialist wardrobe. We sat on the leather couch inside the bar for a while, drinking €9 cocktails and acting all stoned.
There was a glassless window that displayed chefs in white hats preparing food in the kitchen, and it glowed white against the darkness of the restaurant. Beata kept remarking that it looked like a TV, like the chefs were on TV.
We got lost getting back, then I curled up on Beata’s burnt-orange pullout couch, with her strawberry-patterned sheets, in her awesome little flat.
Step 11: Seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
The morning I left Milan, at a local place, under a larger-than-life, Renaissance-style painting of Jesus, I ate a breakfast of pizza, cannoli, and cappuccino, just to round out my moral inventory (and my ass). It was time to go home.
Docked on the runway in the EasyJet plane, I reviewed the notes I had taken throughout my journey. They were mostly vague (“tunnel,” “dome place”) and some were inexplicable “leather hat guy—giant beers”). I’ve tried to piece together these moments, to make a narrative out of the absurd. To make sense of things.
Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in our affairs.
It’s too late, I’m off the wagon. Fortunately for you, dear reader.
This might be really obnoxious and unprofessional, but no one reads my tumblr so it’s okay.
What I wrote:
What they published:
What I wrote:
What they published:
I guess I should get a better sense of the magazine’s audience.
Note: Kristal Glam Club does not actually have chandeliers made of lasers; such a thing does not exist, as far as I know.
Yes, I meant for the title to sound sexual.
Monday: It was a beautiful Spring day in South Kensington, so I decided to go for a walk before my four-hour Shakespeare seminar. I went down to Brompton Road, where all the chic boutiques are, past the old Michelin tire factory, with its pretty blue and white tile and stained glass and open windows bursting with flowers and plants. I sat at Cafe Milan across the street from the Tube station and enjoyed an almond croissant and coffee while reading Othello.
That night I went to Tiger Tiger. Why did I go back to this terrible, terrible place? It was crowded and awful. I drank liquor from a pineapple. I encountered an ethical dilemma when a guy in a fedora bought me a vodka soda; would accepting the drink be an implicit endorsement of the wearing of fedoras? Then I reasoned that there could be no harm in accepting free alcohol from a stranger at a bar. There’s no way that could ever be a bad idea.
Tuesday: I’m currently interning at a place on Brick Lane. This street is known for its Indian food, but it also has awesome vintage shopping, especially at pop-up stores on the weekends. I love digging through the racks of frocks and Burberry coats, the suitcases of necklaces and old copies of Vogue, and seeing all the crazy Brick Lane characters that look like homeless people, Pete Doherty, or Berlin ravers from the 90s.
Little food shacks pop up and disappear mysteriously. It’s crawling with anorexic hipsters.
These photos were taken by my co-worker Jazz using the vintage filter on her iPhone. “I guess that makes me a dickhead,” she said.
At lunch I got an egg and cheese bagel from my favorite bagel shop. It’s called “Beigel Shop,” and it promises “Hot Beigels All Night.” Poor London, though, they can’t get bagels right. They can’t even spell “bagel.” Are there even Jewish people in this city?
I had an Americano at Brick Lane Coffee, your typical hipster coffee place. The walls are covered in retro nudies, photos clipped from 80s-era Teen Beat of heartthrobs like Scott Baio and Ralph Macchio, and one giant Michael J. Fox wall calendar from 1983. Their loyalty card has on it the following picture from Teen Wolf:
I’ve already gotten enough holes punched to get a free coffee. I like to sit there and stare at the punks, the lumberjack hipsters, and the pierced and tatted-up barista guy with an incongruous Oliver Twist accent. They also always have copies of The Sun, so I can catch up on my yellow journalism and check out the tits on Page Three.
Wednesday: Another lunch mecca near work is Old Spitalfields Market. The glass-enclosed Victorian marketplace encompasses a grid of striped umbrella-covered stalls selling fashion, food, and vintage shit. It’s also full of pretty cool restaurants like Square Pie and The Luxe.
That day, I grabbed Thai fast food and then mint chocolate chip ice cream from Crepe Affaire. I ate it in front of the anorexic hipsters while they smoked and acted pissy.
Thursday: After work I went to The Breakfast Club in Angel. It’s a cafe covered in John Huges film posters, pictures of Madonna, and other American 80s iconography. You can pretty much get anything good here, coffee and pancakes or booze and burritos or whatever. With its Brat Pack imagery, comfort food menu, and £4-off bottles of wine at happy hour, this place really knows how to tug at my heartstrings.
Friday: I had the day off and the weather was gorgeous again, so I went to Portobello Market. It’s the market from that scene in Notting Hill where Hugh Grant is walking around all morose because of the erratic changes in weather. Honestly, I love that scene. And that movie. I am lame. So I walked around and looked at purses and dresses and shoes and fruit and books and stuff for forever. I bought coffee from the back of an orange Volkswagen. There’s no way that could ever be a bad idea.
Friday night I went to see Four Tet play a DJ set at Plastic People, a blackout basement dance club in Shoreditch. The supervisor at my internship got me on the guest list, so Connie and I were able to skip the enormous queue—suck it, hipsters! Also, it was amazing. Highlight of my week.
Saturday: Daytrip to Oxford. I was excited to see the place where my heroes Oscar Wilde and Bill Clinton were educated.
But first we stopped at Bourton-on-the-Water, a quintessentially English village where everything is funny. I ate Quorn sausages and we went to a model village in a beer garden, where there were these creepy coin-operated miniature models of gnomes and clowns. What the fuck? Bourton-on-the-Water is known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, which is like saying that Branson, Missouri is the Paris of Missouri. It is really pretty though:
Oxford was nice. Filled me with envy though. Also, they won the big boat race that day! Suck it, Cambridge! lrn2crew.
I miss halls of learning. My Shakespeare class takes place in what looks like a hotel room inside a converted flat on a residential street. Sometimes I feel like I might as well be getting a degree from Phoenix online.
Saturday night we went to Shoreditch to eat Vietnamese food at Hanoi Cafe. Then we went to the Big Chill Bar, over on Brick Lane. Is it somehow significant that I went to The Breakfast Club and The Big Chill in the same week? They’re basically the same movie right, except no one cares about The Big Chill because it’s about baby boomer thirtysomethings? Which, by the way, this is why the economy’s fucked, people: the boomers couldn’t prevent our current crisis because they were too distracted smoking pot and reminiscing about college and dancing to Motown the way only white people can.
I still love you, though, Jeff Goldblum.
On Wednesday, 16 February, I fell asleep in London and woke up in Barcelona. Sun-starved, dazed, stepping out onto the bright tarmac, I thought: this is what that guy from that book must have felt like when he came out of that cave. My friends and I took a bus from the airport, past the bullfighting stadium and the Arc de Triomf, past the fountains and Noucentista statues at Plaça de Catalunya. We checked into a hostel near La Rambla, a street filled with all the trappings of tourism—living statues and waffle vendors and souvenir vendors and pickpockets and those little rubber firefly things that people slingshot into the air.
This was our reprieve from the relentless cloud cover of London, so it was time to soak up some vitamin D. We took a tangerine-colored tram to Montjuïc. We walked through winding trails of flora, fauna, fountains, and sculptures in the jardins.
Jardins de Laribal, Montjuïc