Friday, July 27, 2012

(Most) Everything since the Diamond Jubilee

I've failed to update the blog since the Diamond Jubilee. The few of you who are used to Friday updates have let me know your disappointment. This post is my attempt to make up for lost time. It covers several weeks and will be in three parts: 
1. Pre-USA visit
2. USA visit
3. Post-USA visit. 

Most of this will just be captions of pictures (there's over 100 of them).


We got to witness a fight between two street performers. "You are not a nice man, man!"

June wasn't warm by any stretch of the imagination. Kenz found sunspots regularly. 

Kenz decided that we were going out to a "nice" dinner for our 2 year wedding anniversary. We went to Bentley's Oyster Bar & Grill. Immediately, I noticed that I didn't really measure up to the dress code. I resolved to purchase some 'adult clothes' when we returned to the States in July. All the men were in suits; I was in a polo and khakis (with holes in them). 

The Cotton Anniversary

Of course, Kenz knew how to dress...

And she ordered some monstrosity of a seafood platter.

I got the Admiral's Pie.

Of course she didn't finish it

Symptoms of the upcoming Olympics began appearing by mid-June. 

I was curious why signs were in my part of town. No tourists will be visiting 'souf' London. 

Kenz sings the song from the ad every time she uses this now. 

The Euro 2012 soccer tournament was happening in June. It's kinda like a mini-World Cup. I went to Jim's house to watch the first game England played. He was decked out in his England 'football kit'. 

England won a few games, but lost in the quarterfinals to Italy.

A surprising find in the UK.

The Internet has leaked out onto the streets of Shoreditch
During the second England game of the Euro 2012, I made it down to Arsenal. Arsenal is a part of town that, obviously, used to be the country's home for weaponry. It was also the original home of the Arsenal football club, but they've since moved. These days, this part of town is a mixture of gentrified and derelict streets (kind of like lots of other parts of London). There's a museum devoted to weaponry, a big public square (that was hosting a live broadcast of the England game), and lots of little shops here and there along the river. I wound up taking a boat back towards London Bridge. The boat ride was legit, and I'll recommend it to anyone coming to visit - it's a seldom-used commuter option that goes from pier to pier along the Thames. You can buy a day pass for the boat, and hop along different piers all day - it's a slick way to get around to various tourists spots without having to deal with traffic in between. 

Woolwich folk watching the game

The Arsenal

Looking towards the Arsenal with my back to the river

Looking northwest towards Canary Wharf

My ride home

It goes fast!

The O2 arena at night


Just another day on the bus...Horseguards Parade

Notice a typo?

Kenz eating Greek food

The weekend before we returned for a visit to the States, I had the opportunity to go to BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend. It was a free music festival for London residents that was meant to showcase Hackney. There was a bit of political controversy that the festival was 'free'. There was still a processing fee, but that was only 2 pounds. In order to secure a ticket, you had to provide an address, a picture (which wound up on the ticket as well), and answer a lot of questions in order to prove that you were, in fact, a London resident. Different amounts of tickets were allotted for different boroughs. The administrators responded to the criticism by saying that a lot of the youth in Hackney and Brixton had been left out of/disengaged from the Olympics that were going to be held just down the road, and that this was an effort to bring something to their neighborhood that they could be enthusiastic about it. 

Kenz didn't go through the registration, so she stayed at home. 

When I showed up, though, they sent me packing because my camera had a 'detachable lens'. It had taken me 2 hours to get there. I wound up going over to Owen's house to drop the camera off, which should've taken about 20 minutes. However, the train was closed for maintenance. Four hours after departing to go to the festival, I was finally inside the gate, sweaty and frustrated.

I watched sets from Sean Paul, Nicki Minaj, Will.I.Am, Flo Rida, a bunch of DJ's I'd never heard of, Jack White, and Jay-Z (who had MIA and Kanye on stage with him). 

There were about 100k people there. 

There were 5 tents with 5 different genres of music, as well as 2 little side stages featuring local talent. I spent most of the afternoon walking from tent to tent. Each tent, though, was so crammed with people that walking inside one was like walking into a sweat lodge. I appreciated that the main stage was outside. Jay-Z was last, headlining, and the rain that eventually fell during his set felt like a gift.

Nicki Minaj performing
 There were lots of food vendors lining the walkways.

I thought some Americans would get a kick out of this sign. 

Jack White

I swear that's Jack White

Kenz and I took a final walkthrough of the city before we left for our Stateside visit. Trafalgar Square was having a car show and West End Musical concert. Everything free. We strolled. 

Kit from Night Rider

The General Lee




Booths lined Trafalgar Square, featuring different tourist attractions from around town. Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum had a few statues out. 

The Gherkin

The Shard

I decided to shave

"You never see baby pigeons in cities!"
Then we were off!

Beginning of travel

End of travel
I failed at remembering to take pictures while in the States. What follows is a grab bag of times that I remembered to take my phone out and snap a photo.

I felt like Gumby most of the time, being pulled from each end by people wanting to visit and hang out. Don't misunderstand - I'm not complaining - it's a great problem to have! However, the pictures don't fully represent the breadth of our stay. 

We spent most of our time in Knoxville, TN, with Kenz's family. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm damn lucky to have the in-laws that I have. They're welcoming, generous, and genuinely fun to be around. Michael's always buying choice cuts of various meats to cook me, Patti constantly rearranges her schedule to accomodate me borrowing her car, and Whitney makes it a point to hang out around the house to be with us while we're there. Of course, that doesn't even scratch the surface of what they've done for us, but it gives you an idea of what it's like to stay with them. I count my blessings every time - lord knows enough people have 'out-laws' rather than 'in-laws'.

The Gibsons had their annual 4th of July humongous party, fit with over 50 people, burgers, dogs, pool, shuffleboard, cornhole, and a ton of fireworks. Kara had her wedding shower, the Ethiers had a family reunion, Kenz went to Florida for Kara's bachelorette party, and I toured through North and South Carolina visiting Mom, Tom, Camp, Dad, Mel, and lots of friends. Joey and Paul drove into Knoxville to visit, and I even snuck down to Chattanooga one night to hang out with some people there. All in all, lots of visits were had.

Pictures these days - all iPhone. Absurd.

Family time!

Joey came into Knoxville from Wilmington. Here he is clowning a pair of boardshorts for coming with a beer pong ball.

Getting to eat with Nancy and her BF, Patrick, along the road.

I call him Patty

I couldn't visit Mom and Tom without playing poker, natch.

Their poker group rotates houses, and the hosts cook dinner and deserts. 

MOMA's not impressed with me taking pictures
The problem with trying to do a grand tour while back for a brief visit is that I don't get to spend enough time with the very few people I actually do get to see. Despite that, I accomplished a nice sunburn on my bald head while in SC with MOMA and Tom. We spent lots of hours outside, walking and playing pickle ball as well as gambling and staring at computer screens.

Stopping by Camp Pinnacle was fun. I got to check out all the new stuff on the property, and a few other Pinnacle alumni were visiting on the same day. We all caught up as we strolled around the property. 

The new compost bins

Eating Scooter Crunches!

Flags in the dining hall represent the states and countries of the campers at Pinnacle.

Front Lawn

Pickle Ball courts!

The new game that's all the rage: Ga Ga

My favorite spot on Earth
 The last stop on my trip was with Dad and Mel. Funnily enough, the only pictures I took were of one of their cats, Henry, who was loungin' on this chair.

And just as quickly as we were there, we were gone again. Kara and Jerry stopped by the airport to wave goodbye.

Beginning of travel

End of travel
It was hard to leave. Both of us boarded the plane reluctantly. 

We went downtown when we got back to find the usual London stuff happening:

Tourists posing for pictures

The Hare Krishna folk chanting and dancing in Leicester Square

And young London couples finishing a delightful date night with public drunkenness. 

Our friends, Jim and Rachel, had a birthday party for their 1-year old son, Hunter. All of his play friends were there, and it was a fun party, but I'm pretty sure he won't remember it.

The presenting of the cake

The proud father speech

Hunter, the cutest 1-year old that I know, playing outside.

Kara and I had our requisite weekly facetime laugh-off

Yesterday morning, we trotted down to Camberwell Green to watch the Olympic torch go by. 

Lots of people were out. We walked along the street, trying to find a good place to stand. We didn't.

These signs are everywhere, warning people that traffic will be ridiculous for the next...forever

At least it was a pretty day!

In my naivete, I had thought it'd just be someone running along with a torch. Nope. It was a parade (well, a half-hearted, all corporate sponsor parade - but a parade, nonetheless).

This lady was loving it - hopping out to get pics with all the people passing.

Told you. The police stopped, and she didn't miss a beat. She scurried out there to get a picture with them.

I had lost focus for one minute, and didn't get good pics of the torch actually passing by. The next few pictures are me trying to catch up to the action.

I had told a British friend of mine that I was headed down to the torch relay. He made a face, and said, "Don't bother. Nobody famous'll be running it through Camberwell." Typical British...

The eye in the sky - always.

St. Giles Cathedral in Camberwell

Camberwell Green, post relay

Photo op with the Olympic mascot!

I'm not the only one who thinks it's ugly, right?

Hipsters with matching bikes

Home again, home again. Camberwell Green.
Olympic fever, folks. We gots it!

If you made it this far, pat yourself on the back. 

Much love to all. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend! Look for us in the stands at beach volleyball this Sunday and at the USA vs. Tunisia basketball game on Tuesday night. We'll be there!