Saturday, April 24, 2010

When in London

I'm writing this on my iPod, using the hotel's free wi-fi, which I'll use as my excuse both for its brevity and its errors. London. I haven't learned a thing. Last time I was here, I was also one of three 'foreign correspondents' for the school paper, and my final piece (dubbed by the faculty advisor as one of the best editorials this paper had ever seen - and yes, I'm one of those jackasses who remembers praise like that) was about my expectations on coming to London, what I found when I got here, and what I took home with me. The idea was that I had all these big expectations and hopes that never quite panned out. But - I had these awesome experiences that I never could have anticipated as well. And what I took home? This hunger to know my world better, its localities as well as its exotic foreign places. I quoted Chesterron on the idea that the purpose of travel is to eventually see your home country with new eyes. And it kind of worked.

Kind of.

But when I planned this trip it was because the unrealistic fantasy had taken root in my brain again. I had this image of seeing Amanda play, of getting to meet Beth at the merch table, of getting Neil Gaimam's autograph (or even, honestly, to just be in a room that small with him at the same place and time. I thought I would be brave and go out to pubs and meet cute locals. None of this happened the way I hoped, because I am the person that I am and this world is the place thar it is.

First, the volcano. But that didn't defeat me.

Next, the news that Beth wasn't coming on this tour. Disappointing, but I'll live.

Then the news that Neil Gaiman is in town, but went to last night's show and has other plans this evening.

Then the show, which was fantastic and well worth the trip. But - afterward, as I'm waiting for autograph time it's announced that AFP has the flu and won't be signing tonight. So this little child's tamborine I bought to get Neil Gaiman, AFP, and Jason Wwbley to sign as a joke/unique memento ended up unsigned. I could have gotten Jason's signature, but it would have seemed so sad without the others as well. I'm treating it like a coin tossed in the Trevi fountain - a sign that I will go to another AFP/Evelyn Evelyn show sometime before I die.

And as for bravery? I'm too tired. I cling too much to comfort and safety. But even if I wasn't sitting in my hotel room typing this, even if I was at the pub pn the corner instead, I wouldn't meet the people I imagine myself meeting, wouldn't have those (fictional) conversations or become this better, happier person in one weekend. It's been nearly 4 years to the day since I wrote that article, and here I am, still learning the same lesson.

Two good things have come out of this:

One. I no longer feel this desperate urge to live in England, which is good for financial and citizenship reasons.

Two. I remembered - vaguely, and in the midst of an AFP performance - what it was like to create something and have it be a Big Fucking Deal, have it be passion and obsession and the kind of happy-crazy-electric-spot on discovery - that's right, DICOVERY, because the art you've created seems too much like it has always been there and you just found it, just wrote down the chords or typed out the dialogue, or like you heard that breathtaking description like a VoiceOver in your brain. Not creation, discovery.

I want that again. Don't know if I'll ever get it back, but I want it.

So that was it, the big epiphany. That was, I suspect, what this weeken was all about. The hard part will be getting on with my life on Monday.

It's easy to be swept up in adventure, because all you do, really, is react. Even the bravest actions in stories are usually reactions to a villain's tyranny. It's harder to just live.

But live I shall.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I am fucking pissed.

It's a cool thing, actually. This volcano. The pictures are fucking terrifying and astounding and gorgeous. It's one of those rare things that happens only every once in a while, and I should be like, "Oooh... big scary volcano exploding. Awesome."

But it messed with London.

You don't fucking mess with London.

You don't get it. London is my home town. More than the town I was born. More than the place I grew up. More than any city I've been to on this planet (and I've visited a fair share). This city, this place, is the one place on God's green earth where I feel like a fucking person with a fucking PURPOSE, and I don't get to go there very often. This was a small thing. Three days. A concert. A chance to soak in a bit of the place I've been missing for so long. Just enough to stop the melancholy that I get when I'm away too long, just to stop it for a short while.

And stupid fucking Eyjafjallajökull had to come along and fuck everything up.

Go to hell, Eyjafjallajökull.

Clouds of ash spreading through the atmosphere. And of course the T-shaped blob would have to settle right over London. The one place I've been looking forward to so very much.

I hate you Eyjafjallajökull. And your mother too.


Tea and biscuits. The parks. The bustle. The Underground! Watching Doctor Who live on the BBC. Strongbow. Pubs. Bloody good Yorkshire pudding. Hamley's toy shop. Harrod's. The Evelyn Evelyn show. Jaffa cakes. Top Shop. Pixie Lott and Take That. The National Gallery. Jazz in the Crypt at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Big Ben. The Globe. Walking along the river. Clifton Gardens. Little Venice. Time Out. Oyster cards. Burrough market. Camden. Notting Hill. The British Museum. A bus ride to Oxford. The train stations. The theatre district. Covent Garden. St. Paul's. The Tate.

The way people speak. The hum of the city. The way there are always people, always at least one person. You're never really alone in a city. The lights, especially the way they shine at night. The pavements. There's an aura to the city. You know without really knowing that you're someplace important, someplace where something is always going on. The stupid signs in the Underground advertising the latest crazy thing (moon cups?). The tabloids. Tesco's and Sainsbury's and Boots.

The way the light falls on the city in early morning. The feeling of layers of thousands of years of history beneath your feet.

I love that city with a love I can't properly describe.

The violent imagery of lightning, ash, and fire colliding above the surface of the volcano is the perfect metaphor for the anger and hatred and frustration spewing out of me and hovering above me even now as we speak.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Hank Green recently did a VEDA video about being involved in online communities and local communities, and asked how we can reconcile the two.

This is an issue I've always struggled with. I love the internet and the online communities that arise from it, but I've always had this fear that participating in online communities means pulling away from more active involvement in local communities. I kind of miss life before the internet: I was more physically active, had more time for creative projects, was more interested in exploring the world around me, was forced to use my brain instead of turning to Google.

If I ever have kids, they won't use a computer until they're 10 if I have anything to say about it. They will have a real childhood if I have to move to the middle of nowhere to accomplish it.

I know, I know... Neo-Luddism isn't the answer. But I don't know what is.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Love. Sick.

I thought I loved you for a short while back before the caterwauling of the recently undead. Back in those short days of peace we knew in the Way Back When. We didn't understand at the time that what we had was a gift. We thought it was simply every day and ordinary. We thought the world would be that way for the ever-and-always-amen of our ancestors. We took our blessings for granted and they fled from us. They fled out of the world altogether, never to return.

They say it started in India. I've never been. Once I wanted to go there, to see the snowy white dome and intricate craftsmanship of the Taj Mahal. But that was only the travel-guide image of India. The streets were crowded and the poverty level was high, and not all who lived there were very conscious of cleanliness. It would certainly have spread swiftly in the sweltering heat of that land.

Some scholars nowadays propose it was actually related to the AIDs epidemic in Africa. I do not understand enough of the science behind it to know if there could actually be a link. You'll have nutjobs who insist it was our own government that formulated the strain in our own tax-funded laboratories. Paranoia in the extreme. Or if they didn't intend to do this to their own population, that it was an experiment in biological warfare gone very drastically wrong. As in, 70% of the world's population wrong. And that number is

But the most common story is India, and I like to imagine it that way. Oceans and continents away as we are, we still see the consequences of that first fatal transmission - wherever and whenever it was. Like a deadly poison in the blood stream, it is slowly tainting the whole world.

What scares me most is actually the animals. Humans I've seen in a similar state in the old fictional Hollywood versions of what they imagined might happen along these lines. They never really got it right. Too much limping and gore. It's not an I-want-to-rip-you-to-pieces-and-eat-your-guts kind of disease. It's the mere touch that can get you - make you like them. Like computer hard drives wiped completely clean. But the sound on those old films was nearly right: grunts and groans and an occasional guttural shrieking and wailing. There is no sense in it, and no reason. The brain doesn't connect to the body's functions in the same way after the sickness takes hold. The voice, the throat - they are very much their own free entities by then, and they wheeze and moan and rend the air with their sounds at random.

But the animals. Oh, to see them like that. It's wrong. It's terrible and wrong. I'm used to what humans do to each other, but the animals have always seemed blameless and above it somehow. They follow their own code, the natural law. But now that they're infected, they are almost human in their appetites and cruelties. The instinct of the hunter, mutated by the hunger of the disease, turns them into destructive homing missiles of contagion - they seek out any living thing for the sole purpose of infecting it. I said nearly 70% of the world's population had turned, but that's only the humans. I would guess nearly all of the animals are gone by now, perhaps with the exception of some of the more elusive birds and creatures in the deeper parts of oceans.

I don't know why I'm writing this to you like you don't already know it. Like you haven't been living in it as long as I have for these many years. But the truth is I don't know what you've seen and what you know because i haven't seen you since that one September after the news that the outbreak had reached Atlanta. I saw you through your car window as your mother backed out of your driveway. You never came back.

I look for your face sometimes when I see crowds of them milling in the distance. The soldiers glance at me in disapproval; we're not supposed to go out near the perimeters, and especially not after the warning alarms have gone off. But I go because I'm afraid that I might find you. I don't know what I'd do if you really were there, sallow-skinned and dead-eyed and wailing that god-awful screeching of the damned.

I thought I loved you, but recently I've been trying to talk myself back to sense. That was years ago now, and you are gone, and the world mocks me for my hoping. It's not a matter of dying, for none of them are dead. And if you walk among them, that is some small relief. It's just hard to believe anymore when even the sparrow outside my window could with the brush of a single feather instantly erase me. The way it watches me it seems to want me gone.