Saturday, August 29, 2009

London Through My Eyes...

So, I was originally just going to make that last entry a photo-blog type entry. Then I got to editing my photos a bit with iPhoto, I know, nothing fancy. I might try to get my hands on something better...hmm....

Anyway, I started fooling around and realized that I lo
ved my little creations, but they were nothing like the originals, and you all would be like "gee... thanks for showing us... nothing". So, I'm putting up the edits, and some of the originals, but I'm devoting a whole entry to it...

I think this is the coolest name.

This is how London looked in 1934.

Yes, everything was taupe.

I believe that life should look like this whenever you find yourself in a place of historical significance...

This is the photo that made me decide that editing them is really an amazing thing. Here is the original:

I just love how the only real color in this picture is that deep black.
Don't swim in the Thames, kids!

Doesn't this look like something you'd see in a museum dated 1846?
Beware the Tower!

This man is either celebrating the end of a war...or Football.
The correct answer is B. I stole this from an Underground billboard.

"Look on my works, ye mighty
And despair!" - Rameses II

My little twist on possibly the coolest symbol of all time.

It's the Wanting to Know that Really Matters...

I'm spending a lot of time at cafés. A lot. I'm 200 pages into the book that I started when I got here, and I read through the play we saw in its entirety the day before we saw it (It was an excellent production of a hysterical and brilliant play).

So you'd think that I would have spent more time blogging, right?

It's strange, I had a good long amount of time with WiFi and a computer yesterday, but I just did NOT want to write. I'm not sure what it was, or why I felt that way. But hopefully this entry will suffice.

Since you've last heard, quite a bit has occurred. (hmm..that'd make s good song lyric)
Class began the day after we got here. It has major potential. We basically cover whatever is relevant to where we are. So the day before we went to the British Museum, we covered its history. Here! Take a look.

The Museum was incredible. And quirky. Incredibly quirky. For being the British Museum, not much of it is British. The museum prides itself on being a World museum, displaying world civilizations near each other. It's quite the place.

<-This, is THE Rosetta Stone. Yeah, THAT Rosetta Stone.

After the museum, I went off on my own to a little café between our residence and the museum to read, get some coffee (I'm finding that I should really stick to tea while I'm here, though). While reading, I watched a lot of our group meander back, trying to absorb a bit of London. Some of them recognized me, others just walked by. Then one group of women kind of jumped when they noticed me.

"Oh! Gosh! I didn't realize that was you! You fit it so well!"

Well, that was pretty much the perfect compliment. I don't want to be a tourist here. I want to be as close to European as I can, so that woman basically gave me the "Mission Accomplished".

We've also gone to the British Library. Which I found fascinating. I don't think most of the group did, because we started at their main exhibit, a tribute to Henry VIII (he's big here right now, it's a significant anniversary of his reign. And then most people left. What a waste.

I found a small little exhibit called the Treasures of the British Library. Here are the highlights (sadly, without photos, they from upon them in this part of the Library):
  • The Magna Carta
  • Original, handwritten Beatles lyrics
  • One of the oldest Codexes of the Bible
  • Tons of original Shakespeare writings
  • Original illuminated texts from every religion (including some fascinating Hindu legends)
  • Pieces of DaVinci's astronomical sketchbook
Life outside of class has been just as exciting. There's something about sitting, talking in a pub with people you don't know that's just wonderful. I've done that quite a few of the nights so far. It's too enjoyable.

Last night was spent walking around Trafalgar-Whitehall-Parliament. Which, too me, is kind of like saying "Last night was spent walking around Cape Canaveral, Central Command at Houston, and... the Moon". So, that was pretty cool, I guess. :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Past the Pizza Hut and Onward...

Made it.

I’m here. But wait…what is here? I mean, I’ve made it to the place I’m staying at for a while. But it still doesn’t feel real. I almost feel like I shouldn’t be here. Almost like a visitor, or a tourist, or even an immigrant. Perhaps a refugee for learning… A culture refugee?

Hmm…clearly I’m a bit mixed up in my thoughts. There were a lot of question marks in that last paragraph. Maybe I need a bit of a recap.

Got on the flight no problem. Ended up in business class. Talk about a nice way to travel. I read, enjoyed myself, and slept like a baby. I did feel a bit bad though, one of my fellow Euro Semester buddies was on my flight. I tried to get her up in the “second class” with me, but alas, not one open seat.

I got to entertain a little girl who was sitting in the row in front of me in her backwards-facing car seat. That was great. She was a really good airplane child, only crying once. In fact, it was right when we needed to wake up too; she was my human alarm clock.

I got off the plane still in a bit of a morning fog, and walked to immigration. I had filled out my landing card except for the address of the place I was staying. I didn’t have a printed itinerary, and had no clue the actual address. The immigration employee was a crass and less-than-patient woman who decided I was just trying to annoy her. Apparently she was close to turning me around for the States. That would have been a nice start… Thankfully, Joy, my travelling companion, had her itinerary with her. I got it from her and the woman decided to completely change her tune. She went from bitingly bitter to a ray of sunshine faster than a French surrender. Welcome to Europe, mate.

Joy and I then spent a half hour on the Underground. Which is just great. I love the Tube. Then, it was a quick walk to our residence. The London School of Economics dormitory. Let’s just say that British dorms are a bit different than American. But I’m digging it. I have a room to myself for this week. Good thing I got a year of practice rooming by myself, or this would be rough.

Went on a 2 hour walk around Holborn (the “L” is silent by the way) with a few others and got lost in a big city. Now that’s a perfect start to things. We’re staying in the middle of a beautiful piece of London, so I will absolutely take some pictures soon. Good call on the camera, Mom. J

I don’t miss the States much, I love London. But I sure do miss the people already. J

Cheers, mates.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Every Journey has a Beginning...

And this is mine....

Should be an interesting start to things. My flight looks...tight. As always, gotta make things interesting. Gonna be praying, hoping, and bartering my way onto this plane.

Good thing that I like airports right?

I can't say that I'm not nervous about this whole ordeal. But I'm really excited about it all as well. I guess I'm feeling my version of "anxiousness". 50% nervousness, 50% excited.

I'm anxious to go.

Especially when I look at what I'm going to be doing over the pond. Between schoolwork and being a Chaplain (I'm still not sure what they will look like), there will be a decent amount of things to keep me busy.

Well, no looking back now right? That's probably a good thing.

I can't get this Irish blessing out of my head, but I think that it's appropriate:

May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind always be at your back,
The sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hallow of his hand.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Grapevine Fires...

When the wind picked up the fire spread
And the grapevines seemed left for dead
And the Northern sky looked like the end of days
The end of days

I woke up this morning, well, this noon, and I played some Death Cab while showering. I don't sing in my shower, I listen. It's much less should try it. While in the shower I looked outside through our frsoted glass. It was just a blank page of white. Immediately, I was transported to the Winter. It felt like there was a foot of snow covering everything. It was great, and strange at the same moment. I actually felt like it was mid-Winter and there was snow covering everything. Then I realized how much I miss the snow. It's been too long since I've witnessed and experienced a real snowstorm. I really hope we get some snow somewhere mid-continent next semester. I could use a day where the Northern sky looks like the end of days...

The wake-up call to a rented room
Sounded like an alarm of impending doom
To warn us it's only a matter of time
Before we all burn

Before we all burn
Before we all burn
Before we all burn

Then I got lost in the song. My thoughts went from cold and snow to hot and fire. Fire. It's been awhile since I thought about it all. Usually when people ask or talk about it, I give the typical 'I can't really even describe it' response. But this time I actually got back into the emotion. How useless I felt in the gym; how mad I was at people believing they were heroes for coming into the gym and taking only their friends away, while people who needed to leave slept on a cold, hard floor; how proud I was of my guys for responding perfectly; how I was just fine with not having my stuff in the morning. Everything came flooding back. Wow...sometimes you can forget some emotions. I hadn't thought about anything from that fire for a while. Sometimes it might be good to remember just how you felt during crazy times. Maybe revisiting trauma is good every once and a while...

We bought some wine and some paper cups
Near your daughters school when we picked her up
And drove to a cemetery on a hill
On a hill

And we watched the plumes paint the sky gray
But she laughed and danced through the field of graves
And there I knew it would be alright
That everything would be alright

Would be alright
Would be alright
Would be alright

And the news reports on the radio
Said it was getting worse
As the ocean air fanned the flames
But I couldn't think
Of anywhere I would have rather been
To watch it all burn away

To burn away

And then I thought about the second fire. The second evacuation. The one that just wasn't going to happen. And then did. I remember just rejecting it. Thinking, 'I'm just not going to let this one happen'. Sitting on the deck of E, playing every song in my iTunes library with the word "Fire" in the title. And laughing. As we watched a massive plume of smoke engulf the sky on the other side of Santa Barbara. I wasn't being sadistic, far from it. I was just unwilling to let something like the fire happen again, so I was going to reject that it was actually happening. Then, it happened again. And I spent around a week as a refugee. Moving every night, unable to go home (It really wasn't that bad, I mean I was driving around in my car, but still). Then finding a beautiful piece of peace when our staff met. I know it was late, I know it was bad timing, and I know it was the day before graduation. But it was amazing. I really, honestly couldn't think of anywhere I would have rather been to watch it all burn away...

And the firemen worked in double shifts
With prayers for rain on their lips
And they knew it was only a matter of time

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


So if you know me well, you know that I am in love with music.

Seriously, I've fallen for music.

I listen to as much of it as I can as often as I can. I quote lyrics a lot (almost as much as movies), and I find so much wisdom in the way other people arrange Latin letters.

Over the last year, I was exposed to Ray LaMontagne. Do you know him? If not, you should. And I mean know him. Almost in the Biblical sense. Almost.

My RA staff introduced him to me. Our relationship started of rocky. I thought he was just another indie hippie with a gravely voice. Then his new album came out Gospel in the Grain. And I dug it. I realized that he was darn talented, and he has a great wit (Meg White is awesome). But it's taken me most of the summer to realize that he is an excellent lyricist. There are few of them out there, and Ray is definitely one of them.

So please enjoy this piece of powerful prose:

How Come
Ray LaMontagne
off of his Trouble album

People on the street now
Faces long and grim
Souls are feeling heavy
And faith is growing thin
Fears are getting stronger
You can Feel them on the rise
Hopelessness got some by the throat you can see it in their eyes
I said how come
How come
Everybody on a shoestring
Everybody in a hole
Everybody on a big jetplane
crossing their fingers and toes
Government man spin his politics till he got you pinned
Everybody trying to reach out to each other
But they don't know where to begin
I said how come
I can't tell
the free world
from living hell
I said how come
How come
all I see
is a child of god
in misery
I said how come
the pistol now as prophet
The bullet some kind of lord and king
But pain is the only promise that this so called savior is going to bring
Love can be a liar
And justice can be a thief
And freedom can be an empty cup from which everybody want to drink
I said how come
I can't tell
the free world
from living hell
I said how come
How come
all i see
is a child of god
in misery
I said how come
Its just man killing man
Killing man
Killing man
Killing man
Killing man
I don't understand
Its just man killing man

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Sculptor's Marble Sends Regards...

I feel as though I am going to be posting about places a lot. That seems to be the trend. (As does lists...)

I'm an another one of those places that brings me peace. A coffeeshop. I love cafés. That will be an excellent part of Europe... sitting outside a café for hours. Why is that so taboo here? We get shooed out of our tables by waiters and bus boys because they want to make a bit more.

At diner the other night, there was a man playing an excellent acoustic set, and I was bantering with him for a while. My sister and mom left to walk back to the hotel, but I decided to stay for a few more songs. Apparently I was breaking the revered un-spoken rule of dine-pay-run, because I have never gotten so many looks in a restaurant before. Most were quizzical, as if people just couldn't wrap their heads around the fact that I was there just to listen. But some people, especially the wait staff, didn't share my appreciation for the guitarist, as evidenced by their less-than-pleasant glares. But hey, the music was good! Here's some of what he played:
(it's what I could remember, identify, and write down. And yes, it's another list)

-Layla - Clapton's Acoustic Version
-Cat's in the Cradle - Harry Chapin
-Pride & Joy - SRV
-Here Comes the Sun - The Beatles
-Wind Cries Mary - Jimi
-All Along the Watchtower - Jimi's Version (and he made this sound great! While trying to keep his voice down, and playing the electric solos on an acoustic)
-City of Angels - Red Hot Chili Peppers
-Old Man - Neil Young
-Melissa - Allman Brothers

See why I stayed for an encore? You should have been there.

Anyway, coffeeshops... I'm not sure what it is about the vibe; but I thoroughly enjoy it. Almost anywhere, I don't think that I have been in a café I didn't like. I mean, a Starbucks is a Starbucks, but there is still parts of it to enjoy. A local place is always the best though. Sometimes because of the coffee itself; always because of the people. Local shops have regulars, real regulars. And these people make for incredible people watching, and even better conversation. While I barista'd I had some of the most enjoyable conversations. Some of them maddened me, some of them made me chuckle after the fact, but I remember the majority of them because of the setting and the people themselves. I may not know them or their names, but that conversation is made because it was with them.

Before I go... I leave some recommendations. First, watch this:

That has to be the best music video I've ever seen. Love every bit of it.

Secondly, go see (500) Days of Summer. I loved this movie. It's extremely well written, and it's presented better. It's got great wit, moments that make you smirk, and an excellent soundtrack. The script is spot-on. You can recognize many of the moments these characters experience in your own, and you resonate in wonderful harmony (or at least I did).