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Friday, October 28, 2011

London, by Letter



Cushioned seats! All of the metro has cushioned seats. The map is a straightforward, easy–to–navigate tangle. But on the weekends it’s a mirage, nearly entire lines are closed. “Signal failure.” Still, it’s so magnificent, walking along five stories underground on cottony white tile. And, it’s so strange. I haven’t seen one single fat or obese person anywhere, ever. Crosswalk lights last half as long as they do in New York and people dash from joint to newsstand to love to lightness. This is a people that casually glide down narrow, curved stairs on moving red buses. And the accents, there are so many of them! 

The sidewalks can seem so crowded that when you do find a wider path your arms spread and you fly, Ben Webster’s saxophone or your favorite Bon Iver song slide along storefronts and wineshops and bookmakers. Parking spaces barely give room to open a door on a Mini Cooper. There are few calculations, no getting off at 51st Street and walking four blocks. Instead, just intuitions, Elephant & Castle or Mornington Crescent, walking along past the crowded ticket booth to where the bread and tea are lit up. Parks are out of the set of Big Fish. A lack of trash bins (a holdover from the IRA bombing days), ventilation, and right-of-way is offset by an overabundance of hair salons and curry. Swiss cheese is labeled emmental. You can't consult the Thames, brooding and unresponsive, like you can the Danube. "Takeout" is "takeaway." Proper English manner is just a veneer get a pint in a bloke and he swears like a sailor.  

 I've been spoiled by Brooklyn's everpink sunsets. There's something different going on here– an eerie, filmy blue, electric haze every morning. On Sundays, it turns slightly orange and gold. Maybe a mist up from the dhows off of the coast of Kenya mixed with reflections down from arctic ice. A feeling like New Year's in New York City. Or something telling you that you just missed her.  

After being here for a month, I’m convinced that the streets in London are patterned in such a way that when you walk through them, they rearrange and realign your fates and messes by seven degrees. I’ve come across far too many coincidences, surprise blessings, and life re–calibrations in such a short time to think otherwise. You’re more sure–footed on cobblestone. From speaking with people, I get the sense that it takes and takes and takes until it gives something back and turns you. It doesn’t grow on you. It suddenly inhabits you. Even your hands take on some strange, reassuring worldliness. 

A
Americano (w/milk), Asakusa, Amici Miei
Asahi, air conditioning (lack of)
Ayoush, Arirang (3rd floor)

B
Brick Lane, Brick Lane, Brick Lane
Brick Lane Bookshop, Barrio, Barclay’s bikeshare
Bon Iver, Bailie Nicol Jarvie, Bobby V
British Museum, Baker St. Chipotle*

C
Canela, cobblestones, curry
Chicken korma microwavables, Comte by the kilo, coincidence
Covent Garden, Cocoro, crawling Camden
The Cuban, Cafe Nunu, chasing the 74
Claustrophobia, chai, Chairman meow
Christopher Place 

D
Dancing at Warwick, Dishoom, Diwali

E
Earl’s Court, Earl grey, electric/filmy sunrises
Egg nog and white wine warm? 
El Camino, Elephant & Castle

F
Favela Chic

G
Gilgamesh, gravity, gusto
Gallipoli

H
Halal, Hoxton, Halloween
Hyde Park 

K
Knightsbridge

L
Leicester, laser sheesha, left turns, lamb chops
‘Loo (Baker and Water), La Petite Maison
Let's do one thing 

M
Mayfair, M83, malt cider
Morrisons, mulled spiced wine, Masala Zone

N
Nando's

P
Princi, Piccaddily, Paddington
Pierino, pain in Putney
Pret a Manger falafel and halloumi

R
Raclette, Rich Mix, Regent’s
Roti Chai

S
Sainsbury’s produce, Suntory time, Saag paneer foot–longs
Sonny Rollins, scotch, strawberries
Soho chinese takeout at 4, Salt (Edgware), Souk Medina
Shoreditch, South Kensington, subpar ras malai
Southbank

T
Tate Modern, Traffy breezes, the Thames (Tem)
Thanksgiving at Hard Rock

V
Viennetta**, Vicky Line, Virgin Active
V&A

W
Wiz Khalifa, Waitrose, Waxy O’Connors

*The burrito bowl is a horrific blend of flavorless peppers, ragu and chili powder masquerading as salsa, and chicken salted beyond recognition. 

 **I'm not a big ice cream eater. But, Breyers Viennetta was my favorite ice cream growing up and it was discontinued in the states years ago. After searching for it for over a decade, I finally came across it edging the freezer aisle at Sainsbury's.