Archive for the 'London Update' Category

Since the Worlds Been Turning

I haven’t been writing for months. Every time I open a blank document and start to write there are just too many things shooting through my brain at once. I’ve never had writer’s block before, but I always assumed it would be like staring at a blank wall and just not knowing what to fill it with. Maybe sometimes it is. Right at this moment though its like being bombarded on all sides by hundreds of little facts that all shout “I’m important! Remember me? Tell me first!”

There is a logical progression in linear time of what has been happening over the past few months, and I’m going to be forced to completely ignore it, because some things are just more important to tell than others. So I’ll start with what happened when I came back to the real world from the dream that was my summer. That summer really was as close to a dream as I’ve come so far, 4 months of intensity, meaning and beauty diluted only by fun and frozen yoghurt.

My first venture back into the world was a very brief trip to New York to meet my new boss and my old team for dinner. It was amusing, it was free, the food was great, and it was really fucking hard. As slaps with the wet fish of reality go it was barely a kipper, but it felt like a tuna (Tuna are really big. Seriously). My whole life had changed, everything I was felt different, better, everything I wanted was more real. But everything around me was the same. My job was still there if I wanted it back, my friends from work were still my friends from work. New York was still New York. I felt as if something should have changed. The Empire State should have been taller, the Brooklyn Bridge should have been a becoming shade of bright blue, anything at all. Sometimes the fact that your whole world moved just means that everyone else thinks you’re now standing a few inches to the left.

But I had to come back. Choices about immigration rules and whatnot aside, I had to know what would happen to me. Whether it would all fade away or whether I could actually bear to live with one foot in each world. So I did what I always do – I got onto a plane and I moved on to the next life. One I had never tried before, in Australia.

Right now I’m in Melbourne, sitting in the bedroom of a corporate apartment I’ve been living in for 2 months. I’m working on a contract for my old employers for the next few months, and then I don’t know what I’m doing. The need to decide that is a few months off, I still love plans but my compulsion to make them has dissipated slightly. I don’t know if I can be half and half. I don’t know if anyone can be half vagrant and half corporate whore. But fuck it, I’m going to try. I have very rarely wanted anything more than I want the life I think I can have now. This is what it was all for.

There are so many things I need to write about now. What I have realized is important and isn’t. How to do what I’m doing. Maybe more importantly why to do what I’m doing. What happened to me and what didn’t. What I want to happen and don’t. I don’t know if any of that is worth reading. But its worth writing.

What I want to be when I grow up…

The most insane job I have ever heard of was explained to me on the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and it is this: When they built the bridge, they used many many rivets to hold the beams together. However some really big beams extended out over the middle of the bridge into a nice wide open space with essentially no other supporting structure. For the rivets that needed to go in the stuff along the sides of the bridge the rivet machines could just be hauled along to where the rivets needed to go, the rivets would be dropped super hot out of the machines and right into the appropriate holes. But for the middle part, there was nowhere to put the machine. So it was the job of one man to go out and stand in the middle on top of unfinished beams with a bucket, and have red-hot rivets tossed to him from the machine operators at the side. He had to catch the rivets in the bucket, and then drop them into the appropriate place.

Now that’s a skill. Not exactly useful in modern times admittedly (at least I think we do not still use rivet-catchers when we build bridges). But imagine being able to tell someone that your job is to stand a mile above the ground and catch flying pieces of red-hot steel. That is a category of hardcore you just can’t fucking argue with.

I’ve come across lots of obscure jobs. Yesterday I met someone who earned a living by making and selling humane snake traps on the internet. I have met people who drive hearses for pet cemeteries, teach amateur taxidermy, or design spoons. But though these are frankly quite odd they are all real explainable jobs. I’ve heard it said that if you can’t explain your job to a 5 year old its not a real job, but I didn’t even need that rule of thumb to categorise mine. I had one of those jobs that wouldn’t exist if the world wasn’t so complicated. It wasn’t quite in the same ludicrous corporate cliched category as life coach or middle manager, or as frivolous and first world as snowboarding instructor or the guy who drives the parasailing boat. But I’m pretty sure I’d be on the B Ark*.

Or to put it another way, on post-apocalyptic earth my profession is about as useful as a chocolate kettle. As someone who likes to be at least mentally prepared for post-apocalyptic earth this has always been vaguely troubling. So at least part of the reason I am learning to be a welder is the attraction to general potential usefulness. If I can’t actually make a living from a job explainable to a 5 year old I should probably have some skills that are relevant to one. Or maybe I just want to know that its possible. That maybe I really could run away and learn to make swords for a living, or build bridges. That the fact that I might spend my whole life making money from something I can’t explain without 45 minutes and a whiteboard is somehow ok, because I could stop anytime I want to, really I swear.

Right now I think it is enough to have the choice. But I am not sure I can keep thinking that forever. The temptation to scrap my silly life and start again is definitely there. I’m not sure I’d even lose anything.

*Obscure statement explained in the first paragraph of this

Freedom and marshmallows – The start of the next adventure

Several years ago I faced the same decision faced by millions of slightly drained, fairly hung over, but still irrationally optimistic college graduates – namely “so…. What do I do now?”. Some people have decided this years in advance, but for many of us in the ludicrously affluent western world college is less a means than an end in itself. It gives us a defined and rational purpose for 4 years, after which we are handed our nice shiny piece of paper affirming that indeed we have managed to attend an educational institution for this entire period without being expelled for consistent incompetence, extreme subordination or setting fire to anything expensive.

We walk out with the aforementioned certification; get horribly drunk in celebration of our own glorified lack of total mediocrity; and then a few days later when we can once again survive the bright light of the daystar and digest solid food we suddenly realize that we have no purpose.  If we did a liberal arts degree we have not only no purpose but no useful employable skills whatsoever, but regardless of whether we are simply or doubly fucked, we need to make choices. So we ask of ourselves the hardest question any human being can ever ask, which is of course “What do I want, exactly?”, the most overwhelmingly common answer to which is of course “I don’t know” (this is actually slightly inaccurate, I plead the use of creative license. The _actual_ most common answer to that question is in fact “I don’t know, but not this”).

For the next 6 years I made every choice that brought me more long-term material wealth. I was never ashamed of it because I never saw a reason to be. To me money was directly equivalent to freedom. But sometimes there comes a point when you are so used to doing something that you forget why, and at that point it is possible for the thing you are doing to stop being a logical decision without you even noticing what happened. I got to the point where I had enough money to do whatever I wanted to do, and somehow there wasn’t anything I wanted to do except to make more money.

In many ways we are trained from birth to behave like this. There have been studies in which each child in a group is given a marshmallow and told that if he does not eat it, he can have another one. After ten minutes the promise is fulfilled; the exercise is repeated several times; and there is always a kid at the end grinning smugly with a plate full of marshmallows. I am that smug bastard kid (except that if left alone for 5 minutes I probably would have sold the marshmallows to a hungry kid because you cannot trade marshmallows for books). This is lauded as intelligent behavior, the concept of immediate sacrifice for future gain. But delayed gratification needs rational limits or else jam is always for tomorrow and tomorrow never comes.

This is called a glaring lack of perspective, and is a disease from which it can be quite difficult to recover without a right kick in the arse. Thankfully someone gave me one, for which I will probably never do anything nearly awesome enough to repay him.

I decided to change things. In a way this choice is as arbitrary as the one I made at 21. Quitting my job and working on an art project, travelling until I don’t feel like travelling any more. Leaving when the wind changes, and spending some of the money I sold myself to obtain over the last 6 years. Looking for freedom, for myself, and for something to want that isn’t money. But if it’s not a better decision than the one I made back then it definitely is not a worse one.

I don’t know what I want. But it’s not this.

Paris

I have heard it said that the problem with France is that it full of French people. I’ve heard it said quite a bit actually, I live in England. This is bollocks, I am rather fond of a number of French people and on fairly good terms with many more. Being French does not make you an elitist asshole any more than being Irish makes you a drunk – the odds are statistically higher but you probably shouldn’t use it as a basic assumption. I haven’t seen much of France. I’ve been to Lyon but only for a friend’s wedding, and I have been to Paris 4 times. So largely, my experience of France is Paris.

I fucking hate Paris.

Yes, I know. Beauty; culture; fashion; history; Paris has it all. I completely agree. It has some absolutely stunning architecture, it has the feel of character and the weight of centuries I believe is crucial to a great city. It has an intense appreciation of art and is one of the centres of the world for fashion and the creation of new art and forms of art. It is everything that I have ever listed I want in a place to live, work, or spend time.

But I fucking hate Paris.

Every time I go there I arrive wondering why it is that I thought this place was so terrible. I get into a cab, I use my bad but sufficient French to direct the cab driver, pay the fare, and disembark at my destination. On the way I pass nothing but beautifully constructed buildings, well dressed people, and on this last trip even the overwhelming presence of the Louvre. By the time I arrive at my destination I am feeling slightly enchanted by the whole thing.

Then I go out to eat, on this occasion with a colleague.  We obtain drinks and then ask for a food menu, which we are duly given. We then proceed to sit there for an hour. Our drinks have been drained about halfway through this time period, and no-one has offered to replenish them or even attempted to take our food order. When we eventually grow tired of waiting and accost a waiter on his way past, he impatiently tells us to wait, and then after another 10 minutes still has not returned. Eventually we order at the bar, our food takes another half hour to arrive and is the wrong food. We return it and eventually after another wait are served the correct meal. Which is absolutely delicious, let us give credit where it’s due.

Isolated incident? Nope. Pretty much the exact same thing happened at lunch the following day in a different establishment in another part of the city. To be fair, in the second place the waiters were nice as opposed to incredibly rude, just very slow and prone to getting the order wrong. But even ordering a cup of hot chocolate in a café later that day earned me a look that indicated I was worse than Hitler, presumably for having the audacity to request they accept my money in exchange for conveying a cup of hot liquid to my table.

At this point in the rant you are probably thinking “well it’s because they don’t like it when you speak English to them, everyone knows that”. So I should establish that I was speaking fucking French. Now I will not claim my French is very good, but to order some food you basically need to be able to pronounce the menu item along with “I would like”, “please” and “thank you”. I assure you that even if I can give no guarantees about my ability to conjugate the past imperative or have a discussion about Sartre’s position on existentialism, I can order my bloody dinner and can do so in a passable accent. So the standard excuse does not really apply.

I am of course not basing my opinion of a city merely on bad service. But the attitude of Paris is one which just doesn’t seem to gel with me. I’ve been spat at on the street, I’ve had my ass grabbed in the metro, I’ve had small stones thrown at me on my way out of the underground. I’ve also had my wallet stolen but I suppose that could happen in any big city. Every single time I arrive I start by feeling the magic, but it always seem to end with “I fucking hate Paris” But I know there must be something there, I can feel it hiding around the corner from me and running away when I look.

Someday, it will be magic.

I aten’t dead

As usual the presence of vast quantities of material to write about goes hand in hand with having no time to write any of it. I should probably provide some sort of update on what has been happening over the past few months. Hurray, it’s bullet point time!

(Hint: bullet points are a cool way of making it sound like you have done a pile of stuff when really it’s a little bit tragic that 6 months of your life can be summarized in the equivalent of a paragraph).

  • I made some really amazing friends in Philadelphia
  • I went to Burning Man, and had the best burn ever
  • I had an epiphany (complicated, but boils down to my life being a bit too fucking boring).
  • I navel-gazed for a while about the epiphany  (yeah, shocking)
  • I decided to quit my job
  • I went to Australia for work
  • I wavered about quitting my job
  • I quit my job (thank fucking christ)
  • I went to Thailand on holiday with the Polish girl, missing christmas at home for the first time ever
  • I had another epiphany (Also a tad convoluted but basically I realized I am too much of a jerk)
  • I went to Australia again, for work again
  • I met Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer.  (I also regressed to about the age of 12 at this point, but let’s not dwell on that)
  • I went to Italy for zemphis’ wedding to a Dub
  • I went to Zurich to see diamond and eat cheese. Diamond was alright, cheese was phenomenal.
  • I moved to London (epiphany 1 side effect)
  • I accepted a contract job identical in every way to my previous job but with a defined end date. I decided this was not selling out (internal debate still rages on this one. But hey, if I’m wrong I will only be wrong until May 31st)

What am I doing after May 31st, one might ask if one gave a shit. The answer is “something really cool”. Seriously, that’s the only part I am entirely sure about. There is a definite plan A, but I can’t be sure it will work out – too many feckless hippies are involved. Which hasn’t stopped me telling everyone I meet about it, but telling everyone I meet what I am doing is just one of the many vexing personality flaws I shamelessly flaunt on a daily basis.  As is referring to people as feckless hippies even though I plan on willfully making myself unemployed in a few months. Oh yes, that’s the other part – whatever I do for the summer will not involve making any money whatsoever. Try not to faint on anything really uncomfortable in your deep and abiding shock.

Summary over – more details on Australia, Thailand, and possibly even the epiphanyX2 will be forthcoming very soon. I have been writing over the past few months, just not very frequently or particularly well. But fuck it, I don’t have to read it.

City of a hundred thousand souls… though several million actual people

This evening a man claiming the rather dubious moniker of “Neon Sandwich” stopped me on the street in soho in order to take a photograph of my shoes. Now, my shoes are pretty amazing, but such an event is nonetheless, fairly rare. In fact I think I might go far as to call it entirely unique.

He claimed to be doing a photographic study of topography, though exactly what relevance this had to my shoes is as yet unclear. He did however offer a chinese palm reading for my trouble, which I declined on the grounds that it sounded like utter wank.

I am generally a tad skeptical about things I believe to be the art world’s equivalent of chronic masturbation, but I always enjoy a bizarre diversion in an otherwise statistically unremarkable evening.

You gotta love New York, if only for the weird-ass shit.

They never teach you anything worth knowing

“Everybody has their own path”

“And some of them are wrong. I want to be right”

“Wouldn’t you rather be happy?”

“But how could anyone be happy without being right?”

“You might not know you were wrong”

“So I could be happy, and be wrong, but happy because I didn’t know I was wrong?”

“Exactly”

“Then I’d rather be right.”

“You don’t mean that”

“Yes I do. You are just not capable of believing I mean it”

A cynic is just a realist you don’t agree with yet

In my last post, I mentioned I had about a dozen things to wrap up. Oh, how I mock myself for this ludicrously optimistic statement. I have what seems like several thousand things to “wrap up”, all in a rather short space of time. In retrospect, it appears I have the organisational skills of a rather stupid fish. Despite having known about this move for several months, I seem to have left most of the actual arranging of things to the last available 3 days, thus making my life a logistical nightmare of spectacular proportion.

People keep asking me if I am excited. Interestingly, the answer is no. 3 months ago when the move was approved, I was excited. I suspect when I touch down in Newark (only airport in the world that is an anagram of “wanker”, as someone pointed out to me) I will be excited. But right now it has not sunk in and doesn’t feel real. What does feel real is the burgeoning pressure of meeting everyone I want to see before leaving, and the increasing urgency of terminating all contracts and ensuring that I have transportation for all my belongings.

I am not excited, nor am I worried. This is by far the easiest move psychologically which I have made since moving down the road to live in a student estate for the summer of 2001. I already know where I will stay for a whole month, I have already been to the city and done a lot of walking, not to mention getting the hang of public transportation. I already know how to get to my flat, my office, and how to actually do my work. In my head, this is by far less daunting than moving to London, aside from the fact that it is rather far away

What I am is merely incredibly, stressfully, busy.

Over-sized fruit and the merits of being paid

1. I am moving to New York in approximately 6 weeks

Yes, I have decided to leave my beloved London for pastures fresh, or in this particular case, pastures fairly smelly and a tad on the filthy side, but still pretty interesting. This move doesn’t mean I like London any less, I don’t. I love it here. But I am a firm believer in learning from experience, and I don’t intend to limit that experience to just one big city. So I’m off. If I’m not back in 2 years, avenge my death. But eh, email me and check if I’ve just moved to Asia first.

2. There is a reason I took the blog down in the first place

Recently this blog was gone, for about 6 months or so. The reason for this is that through an odd set of coincidences, people I work with became aware of its existence and location. Yeah, I know, I don’t care what people think, why does it matter, I am a great bit pus-filled hypocrite. Right.

Obviously, if I don’t use profanity in a professional email I am censoring myself. If I wear a suit to a meeting instead of jeans I am being fake. I work for a global company, owned by a big company, owned by a huge company, clearly I have sold out.

Of course I have bloody well sold out, that’s what having a job means. I sell my time and my abilities for a portion of my life and in return I get paid. I just don’t happen to feel bitter about it. During the time that I am doing that job, I do not behave in the same fashion as I do at home. In the same respect that I do not put my feet on people’s desks, eat sandwiches in a meeting, play guitar hero, or randomly lie down on couches, I also do not generally discuss my personal opinions or feelings in a professional capacity. Nor do I particularly want those to come up, because I don’t necessarily want to intertwine them with my job.

I get paid to do a job in a professional fashion, and I believe that one should give value for money or get a different job. Since I don’t currently want a different job, I choose to segregate my ranting from my working. I feel no obligation to excuse myself for the things I write here, but I also have no desire to be in a professional situation in which principle will require me to state this. I sell my attitude and my behaviour in the exact same way as I sell my time. My moral decisions are not for sale, matters of personal taste however are another matter.

Everyone sells themselves. The key is to sell yourself for lots and lots of money.

Do I look as if I would sell myself for New Rocks?

Actually, no-one is to answer that question. Except perhaps for the complete twat in the shoe shop in Camden who tried to sell me the aforementioned pair of shoes, or, more accurately, tried to buy me with said shoes.

In fact they were some pretty impressive boots. They had metal bits, laces, zips, heels, flames. They were incredibly comfortable, and easy to walk in despite adding 3 inches to my height. In fact, they are probably the best pair of boots I have ever attempted to purchase. But shockingly enough, they were still not worth whoring myself to some random shoe salesman. I am Dave’s blatant astonishment.

Should any would-be shoe-salespeople be reading this, however unlikely that may be, here are some useful tips which will help you sail through your coming employment-

  • If someone wants to try on shoes, do not insist on personally fitting them on if they are quite clearly willing to do it themselves.
  • Telling them they have beautiful eyes, while it has the potential to be charming, is nevertheless not pertinent to the sale of shoes.
  • Asking someone you have just met out for a drink is both courageous and flattering, unless of course you simultaneously imply that there will be material gain associated, in which case you are in fact calling them a whore
  • Refusing to disclose the price of a pair of shoes except in terms of a date with someone clearly not interested in you is not a lucrative sales tactic.

In summary, this general sleaziness led to me going next door and purchasing the shoes from someone who wasn’t oozing slime from every pore. Though at that point I was probably visibly angry enough to ensure a lack of any unwanted attention.

I am impressed by people with the confidence to ask a stranger out just because they, for example, like their eyes. Unfortunately I think this an incredibly stupid basis for being attracted to anyone, and would refuse on principle, even if they were Johnny Depp’s better-looking younger brother. Not that I am regularly hit on by stunningly beautiful people or anything. Essentially though, I see nothing wrong with it, as long as you take rejection well then good luck to you.

The catch is that you have to actually _take_ said rejection when it is given. Sometimes, “no” means “please go anally violate yourself, you disgusting fuck”.

Next Page »