Friday, October 21, 2011

Back Online

There are some people who claim to be happy not to have a television. You know the type: can't be bothered with talking about the latest in movies, television shows, or just pop culture in general - they'd rather talk about how it's ruining us, dumbing down America, yadda, yadda, yadda, then move onto how they feel so much better because they're not being assaulted by advertisements on the television and "have really gotten back into reading." They wear it like a badge of honor.

For the most part, these people are harmless. Comedian Wyatt Cenac talks about them in his stand-up show, "Comedy Person." He points out a major flaw with those who say they don't watch TV, but have a laptop wherein they download and watch TV shows from the Internet, saying that's like a super TV and they shouldn't be allowed to claim that they don't watch TV.

I think the next generation of those people are going to say they don't have the Internet at their house.

Now, sure, we can go ahead and say that the equivalent of people who say they don't have a TV but secretly watch television programs online from their computer will be those who say they don't have Internet at their house, but still have it on their phone. That's not my point.

My point is that - whereas it may sound attractive, when listening to these people talk about not having a television, to go on a TV fast, to give up the TV, to give it away - to feign a complete departure from the "insidious consumerism that is the thread woven through American television programming" (- guy who doesn't own a TV) - it is not awesome to go without the Internet.

It was not a liberating experience, it did not cause me to get in touch with myself, grow as a human being, get in touch with nature, or bring about world peace. Sure, I read more. But I was already a reader. It didn't cause me to be any less materialistic or self-obsessed. I just lost touch with the world, the news, friends, emails, etc.


About a month ago, I got word that a linguist from Ohio State was going to be travelling around Europe for a month (there is an extensive network of linguists on Twitter). She was going with a friend of hers from college; the beginning and end of their trip was London. I told them that they could stay at our place if they wanted. I didn't think too much about it at the time, but when I was explaining it to Kenz it seemed kind of strange. I had only met this linguist once at a conference. She seemed nice enough...

That's what you do, right?

When people are coming to stay in your town you extend a roof for them, no? Kenz and I have kind of assumed that since we live in this city that people travel to for business or vacation, we should expect to have a revolving door of friends, family, and ... well, acquaintances.

When we signed up for Internet, they told us that the earliest they could come install it would be September 28th. At the time, that was two and a half weeks away. I didn't think much of it, put it on the calendar, and went on with life. It didn't matter much - we had been given our neighbors' wireless password in exchange for helping them with their monthly Internet bill. The stakes weren't that high for us to get our own Internet asap.

Then I realized that our house guests would be arriving in London on the 28th. I had told them I would meet them at the airport. No big deal; they were supposed to land at 10:30 and the Internet people had given me one of those maddening 5 hour windows. You know, "be at the house from 1 to 6pm." I figured I could get back from the airport with the girls by 1pm no problem. Besides, I'm always the last person on the list when it comes to Internet or cable people dropping by the house to fix whatever problem - they probably wouldn't be by the house to set up the Internet until 5:59pm anyways.

I was also looking forward to finding out how long it took to get to Heathrow from our place on public transportation.

Leah landed on time - she was the friend of the linguist. I had yet to meet her, but I had sent a picture of myself for recognition. She spotted the only big, bald, bearded American waiting at the terminal. We got a coffee and found out that Katie's plane had been delayed. We played the 20 questions getting to know you game while we waited for Katie's plane to land, which wasn't until about noonthirty. Which meant we didn't get home until 2:45pm.

You've already guessed where this is going. The Internet guys were at the house at 12:50pm. They left me a voicemail that said I'd have to reschedule my appointment. Of course.

But it didn't matter - we had Americans staying with us that wanted to see London!

Their first order of business was getting fish and chips:

Katie and Leah
They went out for the day, equipped with an extra key to our house and some pay-as-you-go phones that we loaned them (that's the kind of service you can expect if you come visit us!). The next morning, I tested out my newfound desire to learn how to cook. I made some breakfast with "rashers," which is the closest approximation the English have to bacon.

Trying not to burn anything.
They call pulp in orange juice "juicy bits."
The spread!
The ladies stayed with us for two nights while touring London. Kenz had just started school and I was busy trying to get in touch with the landlord, so we didn't go around town with them all that much - but it was nice to have some company around. I got to nerd out on linguistics with Katie, though, which was nice. 

They left on Sunday morning. Our friend, Nye, came in on business the following Monday. Nye and I had grown up on the neighborhood swim team together; later, he went to high school with both Kenz and I. 

We got out with him on Thursday night and he stayed with us from Friday until Monday morning. Nye and I probably walked about 100 miles Saturday and Sunday. He was so stoked to be in the city that we just about covered the everything. We went to the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Regent's Park, Tate Modern, St. Paul's Cathedral, various art galleries, Covent Garden, Soho, Westminister, yadda, yadda, yadda. 

As we were walking around London, things would catch Nye's eye and he would say things like, "Hey, look at that! Can we go over there?" I didn't have any sort of agenda and it was nice to be with someone excited to digress into nooks and corners of the city that I hadn't been to yet. We had loose plans to hit this part and that part of the city, but we took zig-zagged everywhere - following sights and sounds that appealed to Nye. 

There was a mixture of about three protests in Trafalgar Square. 

This was half of the square. To the left of the fountain was a whole 'nother group of people protesting some other things.

Nye wanted a picture with the least offensive message. There were some other, more inflammatory pickets for the taking.

I couldn't decide whether or not this guy was trying to sell his artwork or just there for the protest. 

Covent Garden on a Saturday is filled with street performers. There were the classic gold and silver spray painted "statue" people, magicians, a Jack Sparrow impersonator, musicians, acrobats, and jugglers who rode unicycles. 

The kid had to throw the bowling pins to this guy about 10 times. Not the guy's fault - the kid's.

That unicycle was tall.

Playing upbeat classical music. 

This guy escaped from chains on top of a ladder. 

The funny thing that we noticed while walking around to the various performers was that they all had a similar set of jokes. The most popular of these was, "Kids - stay in school, go to that one day you can grow up - and be like me!"

Nye "window shopped" at buffets more than anything else. 

Another Invader installment down an alley near the British Museum.

Kenz had been volunteering at the British Museum all day for "The Big Draw," which is open to the public to come in and practice drawing various exhibits. For volunteering, she got a free ticket to hear some artist I'd never heard of talk about his process. She had a great time, but didn't get to come walking with us.

That night, we took Nye to Yo! Sushi, which is a gimmicky sushi place where all the food is on conveyor belts. You pull whatever you want off the belt and eat. At the end, an employee tallies up how many dishes you've had for the bill. Different colors represent different prices. The cool thing about it is that you're not locked into the two or three rolls that you ordered; you can pull several different things off the belt and still pay the same price you would've if you ordered the regular amount of food.

We don't care how gimmicky it is - we love it.

Nye was stoked. 

Sunday started with Nye wanting to see what this whole "full English breakfast" was all about. I took him down to our local greasy spoon place called Ozi's Cafe. Ozi is the cook - he's a nice guy who cooks a good breakfast.

The full English! Beans (or 'chips'), 1 sausage, 2 rashers, 1 egg, 1 roasted tomato, grilled mushrooms, toast, and coffee or tea.

We spent time at the Tate Modern, then went over to St. Paul's Cathedral after that. I hadn't been inside St. Paul's yet. It's massive.

We walked over the Millenium Bridge from the Tate Modern to St. Paul's Cathedral.

Later in the day, Kenz met up with us to go to Regent's park. We three had a nice stroll around, talking to the ducks, taking pictures, catching up, etc.

Tour Guides

Nye stopping to smell the flowers. 
Possibly my favorite picture of the bunch. 

In front of the National Gallery

That night, we took Nye to our local Indian restaurant. It's the best I've ever had and it's basically across the street from us - by Ozi's Cafe.

The picture of Nye came out too dark. Bad lighting. Not that this one's any better.

Monday came and Nye was off back to America. But the rotating doors at Casa Ethier were still in operation. Katie and Leah were back to stay one more night before they departed to the States as well. Of course, first order of business: fish and chips.

Same spot, same food: Camberwell Green is a park 10 minutes walk from our house.
The ladies took Kenz and I to dinner that night. We went to a place called Abeeno Too, which is amazing. Check the link to read about the type of food that it is.

And, of course, they wanted to see what this "full English" was all about as well. I took them to Ozi's Tuesday morning before they left for the airport.

They made sure to get a picture with the Harry Potter platform as well:
nerding out on Harry Potter

It wasn't over, either. Our friend, Greg, was in town on business just this past week. He got to come out and hang with us on Thursday night and Friday afternoon. We showed him our place, went out to eat, and got to hear about his move from Tennessee to Maryland. 

Outside our place - the backdrop is basically the view from our windows.

All in all, it was a whirlwind of people, talking, walking, eating, and picture taking. Which is to say it was pretty awesome. 

In the meantime, however, our neighbors - the ones whose Internet we had been using - moved. So, we were left with no Internet for about two weeks.

Moral of the story? 

I dunno:

A) Don't let people stay at your house?
B) Don't pick up friends from the airport?
C) Plan ahead?
D) Know that no matter what you do, when you're given a 5 hour window to stay at home for the people to come over something's going to come up and make you miss it?

I kid. It was worth no Internet to have so many visitors. 


Excerpts of a few emails I've received since the Cornwall post:

From my mother-in-law:

"David, my son,

I just finished your blog and I can't believe-----Are You A PUSS???????????????
Not my boy!

Love ya,
Second or Third Mama"

From my Aunt Camille:

"Incidentally, after Cornwall and the comments about the cliffs, our news covered one of those cliffs disintegrating and tumbling down. Looks like you are a wise man! Stay safe!"

From my friend, Sam:

This might have been the cliff you were climbing in Cornwall:

So, for those of you who thought I was a wuss for not wanting to hang out on the edge of a cliff (ahem...Patti!), we can all agree that I was being...prudent.

Safety first!

Much love to y'all for reading this. We love hearing from you, so feel free to email us!