August 26, 2008

While I'm Waiting ...

Larry's on a conference call. Ugh. So while I'm waiting, here are a couple of photos.

The view from our terrace ...

And here's a couple from my lounger on the beach, as per a certain reader's request for half-naked Spaniards. Red trunks (Spanish) was lying next to me and white trunks (probably Eastern European, couldn't hear his accent, and if his suit isn't really a pair of trunks, his legs certainly are) is staying in our apart-hotel complex. They both are with their boyfriends, who are almost as cute as they are. Ah, the happy youth of Sitges.

And my boyfriend, who is clearly losing his youth to big business, is still on the phone. Maybe I'll just have to let him come find me when he's done. I'm getting thirsty.

It's Not False Repressed Memory

I'm loving the sprawling saga of The House of the Spirits. I really don't think I've read it before, but the appearance of the giant dog at Clara's wedding seemed awfully familiar, as did his reappearance in her post-honeymoon bedroom. Perhaps I started it before and just don't remember?

In any case, as is true with the remainder of my holiday, I've got no real clue what's going to happen next, but I look forward to the next bit of humor, the next surprise, and the next ghost that floats into my world.

I walked up to a couple guys the other night and said, "I'm sure I know you."

"I don't think so," said the handsome man, eyeing his boyfriend with a "step away from the stalking American" look on his face.

I was persistent, and it turned out that they were from Glasgow, and we played pool together at their local pub on the Sunday before I headed to Inverness last March.

See, I'm not crazy.

August 25, 2008

Political Dynasty

We were sitting in one of the sidewalk pubs yesterday afternoon, having a post-beach beer or four and watching the parade pass by. The guys next to us were J & H, a very nice couple from Amsterdam.

We started talking about stuff, as you do, and the election came up. They're very interested in politics. In fact, they're heading to D.C. for a week at the end of October with 125 Dutch people for a week-long conference on the American election process.

J asked if Barrack had picked a running mate and I told him it was Biden.

"Oh, I'm disappointed by that," he said. "I was really hoping he'd pick Bayh."

Larry piped in and said he couldn't agree more.

"At least he didn't pick Hillary," H said.

His partner agreed. "She got to be a bit much, didn't she? I liked her at first ..."

"We all did," I said.

"But then she just got bitchier and bitchier. If Obama picked her, he might have well have chosen Joan Collins."

That made me laugh, but I reminded him that she's not American so she couldn't get the job.

"Ah, but wasn't Alexis Carrington American?"

I think he's on to something.

August 23, 2008

In Which We Begin a Sunny Holiday

Hola y bienvenidos a Robertito es su Tio.

So I've got a snapshot of our ocean view, but I don't feel like unpacking camera cables just yet. Maybe I'll wait until the sunset. Or maybe I'll wait until the beach festival tonight when we're either watching tonight's fireworks with the throngs down on the beach or up here on the terrace.

Despite the lack of photographic evidence, I can tell you the sun is shining, there's a warm breeze coming off the sea, we had one of the easiest journeys ever getting over here this morning (despite having a 7am flight), the kitchen's been stocked, and I've already picked up a twinge of color. Pasty faux-English complexion, be gone!

Life is good, y'all.

Oh, four down, three to go. It's gonna be all about Isabel Allende, magic realism and The House of Spirits this week.

That and half-naked (at the least) Spaniards frolicking on the beach and in the local bars. Mmm, half-naked Spaniards who drink.

Yes, life is very good, y'all.

August 21, 2008

The Reward is in the Risk

I hate being a whore.

With my hair.

A few weeks ago, my darling hair care professional Fae told me she'd probably be changing salons in the near future, moving from Covent Garden (5 minutes from work) to a new place in Soho (probably 5 minutes from most pubs I frequent). Location location location being nearly everything, this did not really pose an issue. She promised to send me a message and let me know where she'd gone.

Fair enough.

I ducked into the salon yesterday to schedule an appointment, what with vacaciones being just around the bend and my hair starting to trend towards 70s porn star status. It doesn't get longer, it gets bigger. My hair, that is.

"Fae's no longer with us," the woman behind the desk told me, in a somber tone that could've been remorse, regret, or just quiet relief. I seem to recall a clandestine vacation that Fae was planning just before I went to Edinburgh. Something that had to due with a combination of Ibiza, unscheduled leave, and a mysterious illness that her mother was about to undergo.

"Oh. Okay. Thanks, then." And I moseyed from Covent Garden into Soho. Yeah, I was that salon stalker. The one peeking into most any hair-burning hole-in-the-wall, on the prowl for a bleached-blond, tattoo-laden, multi-pierced rock-and-roll Essex chick who I'd grown to love and trust (with my hair at least) over the past six months. She could color like the sun, adding texture with the merest flick of a straight razor. She was a godsend, she was.

And she was nowhere to be found.

What to do? Put out an All Points Bulletin on Craig's List? Wander around a second afternoon searching for salons I might have missed? Repeat visits to vistas where she might have taken yesterday off? Wait for Fae's text and go on holiday with hair that, once upon a time in Texas*, would have placed me at the right hand of Jesus himself?

No. Here at Bob's Yer Uncle we live on the edge.

I popped over to the Covent Garden digs at lunchtime and scheduled an after-work cut. I was told that Loretta could take me at 5 o'clock. I nodded, stoically accepted my fate with no mention of Fae (although I was in the computer), and went back to teach a remarkable lesson (where my Spanish banker student-cum-teacher turned me on to this bit of sub-prime 101 comedy genius ... it's 8 minutes long, but dead funny and, as we say over here, spot on. Plus, it ended up taking up a half-hour of my lesson, what with the discussion afterwards, which means I have a half-hour less to plan for tomorrow.)


I arrive at five. I notice that none of the regular workers are there, save a manager or two. I was hoping that 'Loretta' was the nom-du-scissors of the Brazilian boy, the one with the nimble fingers and rippling biceps, who worked the chair next to Fae. That was not to be my luck. I'm offered a drinks menu (a perk not presented on prior visits) and snubbed Senorita Shiraz for a date with my old friend Stella.

About ten minutes later, a lovely young woman comes up to me and says, "She's running a bit late. Do you mind if I cut your hair instead?"

"I don't mind if you don't mind," says ever-agreeable me, sipping a glass of lukewarm lager.

She asks me what we're doing. "Oh I don't know. We've been trying to grow it longer in the front but it's just getting big now and in less than forty-eight hours I'll be on the beach in Spain and I don't want to look ridiculous. You're the trained professional just make me look cute. Like one of those Olympic divers when I come out of the ocean. But not too short ... I don't want to look like every other clipper-cut homo on the beach."

Turns out her name is Loretta (which was odd, because that's who I thought I'd had the appointment with). She's from New Zealand, has been in London five years and is going to Berlin next week to see Madonna with her brother (Loretta's brother from New Zealand, not Christopher Ciccone from whatever land of publicity-seeking he's from).

She said she'd never been to Sitges.

"That's a coincidence, because I've never stayed in New Zealand, never been to Berlin, have never seen Madonna, and don't have a gay brother."

She said she liked me.

Long story longer ... I got a great new haircut. She told me she tried to snip out the gray and leave in the highlights (which sounds gayer than it is ... oh, who am I kidding?) and she guaranteed I'd turn a head or two in Sitges this weekend. Me and Joseph Merrick.

But here's the pay off. I went to the counter and the cute-ish manager (who's never been friendly to me before) said, "Are you happy with your haircut?"

"Yeah, I think I am. What do you think?" I know full well he's not going to say, "we could give you a do-over if you like" and he instead tells me he thinks it looks great.

I hand him my Maesto card and he says "Mr Hair has already taken care of that."

"How'd that happen?" I ask, genuinely confused. Nobody knew I was heading into the salon, even if they did want to give me a pre-holiday or it's-only-23-days-till-your-birthday gift.

He just smiled (a nicer smile than I'd noticed in the past, hmmm) and said, "It's magic."

I don't know if it was because I was an ex-regular of an ex-stylist, or because they'd promised me Loretta, given me Chi (turns out she said "Chi's running late" not "She's running late"), and then handed me back over to Lorretta, or if said manager all of a sudden took a fancy to me.

I didn't stick around to question. I said thanks, tossed Loretta a fiver, told her to enjoy Madonna and skedaddled off with a freshly cropped coif.

With the money I saved I bought an extra pint at the pub and gave a fiver to a homeless guy who, truth be told, could have really used a good haircut.

* Texas' state motto being "the higher the hair, the closer to God"

August 20, 2008

Hailing the Hack Poet

Cab drivers in London are equipped with The Knowledge, which is a "detailed knowledge of roads and places of interest in London." Lately, I've found this to be ever-increasingly replaced by a good GPS device, which I really can't find fault with as I routinely use spellcheck and a calculator despite knowing fully well how to spell (or at least use a dictionary) and do arithmetic.

Anyway, for the most part they seem to do a bang-up job, especially compared to some of the medallion holders who used to chauffeur me around New York. London cabbies are usually very friendly and will often have a good story or two. That is when they're not bitching on their mobile phones about how they can't earn a decent wage, think it's criminal that the government won't give him a better pension, and "all these bastards who don't speak the language should just go back to their own feckin' country. What are they doing here anyway?" (Fair play, I didn't have to eavesdrop on his conversation, but he was a real charmer.)

I was in a taxi the other day with a driver who was carrying around what I found to be unexpected knowledge. On the dashboard was a stack of books. Two volumes of Ted Hughes. A small book of (or maybe about) Noam Chomsky. Selected works of John Ruskin. And there were a couple of pocket-sized (p)leather-bound notebooks. One of which he'd pull out when we were at a stop light, scribble a line or two into, and then have a look at one of Hughes' poems.

Several years ago, back in NY, I was taking a character development class and worked up a sketch about a would-be writer who packed in his job and decided to be a cab driver.

I had no idea he moved out of Park Slope, aged about twenty years, and was now schlepping people around London, listening to classical music on Radio 3 and telling me funny stories about "idiot wankers, like the one who can't drive that lorry over there" who shouldn't be allowed on the road.

August 19, 2008

Tuesday 200 — #89

She closes the book she’s been reading, some YA saga about the dead who won’t stay dead, and places it on the nightstand. Fluff-punching the pillow into pre-slumber submission, she lets her head fall into it. She and her pillow sigh in unison. I can feel the warm breath from both of them.

“Just choose one.”

I’m thumbing through several weeks’ worth of sketches. So many fragments of twice as many misconceptions, each less muse-worthy than than the next. The bigger her belly grows, the closer the deadline looms, the emptier those canvases in the studio become.

“Remember the first time you brought me here?” she asked.

“I think you found this house.” I toss the sketchbook on the floor.

“No baby. Here. To your hometown. You wanted to show me the nice part of town, some suburb you swore you’d never be able to afford. We got completely lost, but we had the best drive, listening to crappy radio stations, singing along to crappier songs. You said, ‘we keep making wrong turns, but look at all the pretty houses.’”

I really don’t remember but murmur, “oh yeah.”

“How about you paint me a wrong turn tomorrow?”

:: :: ::

What's a Tuesday 200?

Last week's Tuesday 200.


August 17, 2008

Thrill of Victory, Agony of Defeat

I stayed up late last night, sucked in to the drama of watching Paula Radcliffe finish the marathon. It was heartbreaking, to see such a fine athlete in such obvious pain and yet determined to defy common sense and finish despite her injury. And then after hobbling across the finish line it seemed her biggest concern was getting Liz Yelling medical attention (who finished the race with a cracked rib ... OUCH!). Paula's a star and she'll be a huge favorite when the games get here in 2012.

And then, of course, I had to stay up to see if Merman Phelps broke the final record. Which he did. Which made me cry a little.

Yeah, I'm that soppy guy who gets misty when good things happen to seemingly good people.

I was chatting with a colleague at work the other day about the games and Phelps in particular. She mentioned that she was inspired by something she read: he'd been bullied as an ADD-addled kid and his sisters pushed him into channeling his resulting aggression and anger into swimming. She said she thought it "was brilliant how he could transform all that negative energy into something so positive."

"Yeah," I said, "the pool is a terrific place to work out your frustrations."

Then again, so is a pub. And Soho Pride beckons.

Too bad there are no medals for carousing with your friends.

Perhaps I should learn to channel my ADD into more healthy pursuits.

Oh. Look. Shiny.

August 14, 2008

Stump the Teacher

That reminds me of a porn story I read once ...

Oh. Wait. That's not what I was going to write about.

Ahem. Alright then. Let's begin again.

:: :: ::

I'm usually pretty good at answering my students' questions.

I can quickly illustrate the subtle differences between present simple (I ate breakfast) and present perfect (I've eaten breakfast). I can whiz through first, second and third conditionals and they seem to leave the classroom enlightened. And I can explain to them the meanings of convoluted pronunciations they've heard on the street, such as "jeet jet?", "innit" and "dooya wanna bottla wadder?".

But today I was flummoxed. And I couldn't Google myself out of looking like I didn't have the answer.

"Can you explain something to me," he asked. "Why is it that people in England drive on the left but walk on the right?" In particular, he was talking about Tube Etiquette, where we're instructed to stand on the right, walk on the left when riding the Underground's escalators. "It makes no sense."

I completely agreed with him, and said what was even more confusing that, depending on which station you're in, there are signs on the walls telling pedestrians to "keep left" or "keep right." I had no answers, nor could I find any.

Maybe you know?

But come to think of it, "The Random Patterns of Underground Footsteps" might be an interesting story idea/title of a book.

Anyway, all was not lost. I did get to successfully teach the expression, "there's no rhyme or reason."

:: :: ::

Briefly noted: There's an interview with Chuck Palahniuk in today's bastion of journalistic integrity known as The Metro. One of my sweet, quiet, always optimistic colleagues waved it under my nose today and told that when she read my merman story it reminded her of Guts, which she'd read a few years ago. She couldn't believe I'd never heard of it or that I hadn't read his novels (although I have seen Fight Club a couple times. "He's so you," she said.

I printed out and squirmed my way through read Guts this afternoon. Yikes. It's almost as disturbing as Laura Hird's Meat (it's in her Hope and Other Stories collection, which I recommend very highly.

"He's so you."

Surely I'm not that twisted. Am I?

August 12, 2008

Tuesday 200 — #88

You say it’s about closure.

Your therapist says the restraining order is closure enough. You remind her that was his passive aggressive taunt and expired months ago.

You’re not stalking him. Who were you to question fate when suggested his old neighborhood? Maybe he moved. Maybe they returned his mail with “no forwarding address” to throw you off his track.

You pass his street with forced non-chalance, trying not to script a casual encounter. You spot him everywhere. Could he have gained that much weight? Dyed his hair? Grown a beard? Lost a limb?

You see his boyfriend in the bar. The boyfriend that suffocated him. The boyfriend he told you everything about, but couldn’t breathe a word of you to. Oddly attracted, you sidle up to this man he aborted you for. “You’re not so scary. Why’s he so afraid of you?”

“Pardon me?”

You face the boyfriend and ride a wave of unexpected relief.

Could this be closure?

“You won. He’s clearly made his choice. Congratulations.”

Redness rises in the boyfriend’s cheeks. The same flushed longing that haunts your mirror.

The boyfriend chokes out a whisper. “He hung himself last week.”

So much for closure.

:: :: ::

What's a Tuesday 200?

Last week's Tuesday 200.


August 11, 2008

My Kingdom for a Ball Gag

It's called "The Quiet Coach." I realize and, on most levels, comprehend that it's not "The Silence Under Threat of Death Coach" (although I'm thinking such an invention wouldn't be a bad idea).

A few pointers ...

If you're traveling with a child under ten, no matter how precious or precocious, he's not going to sit quietly. So please don't book a seat, or take an unreserved one, for you and your wee darling in "The Quiet Coach".

If I can hear your entire conversation and you're sitting more than 3 rows behind me then you are not playing by "The Quiet Coach" rules, It doesn't matter than you're not on a mobile phone. See those pictures next to every window? The ones that show the chin and the pursed lips and the index finger raised in front of the pursed lips? That clever little drawing is telling you SHHHHHH!.

So shut the hell up. Or, if you must try to impress the woman you're sitting next to with your pretentious Oxbridge fa-fa-fahdom, then please do it at a decibel level that she can hear but we can't. Because we don't care.

If I can hear you over my iPod's noise-reducing earbuds, which is playing a calming mediation podcast (that might not be working as well as it could), then you are too loud.

If you're chatting on your cell phone for more than a 90-second emergency update ... well, we've got that covered.

Thank you. That is all.

August 10, 2008

Free Theatre

I spent the majority of yesterday chatting with friends, both old and new, and trying to avoid torrential downpours. I reckon that's not what "The Festival" is all about ... I should have been snaking my way through crowds and sitting in darkened rooms laughing at obscure comedy. But I had a blast anyway.

Sometimes sharing stories over a couple pints is even more entertaining than watching someone tell jokes on stage.

And, after two nights of only getting about 4 hours of sleep, I called it an early night after Pam Ann's new show (hysterical) and caught up on my rest.

It's beautiful out now, which is certain to change, so we're off to the Meadow to see tentfulls of comedy and whatnot and hopefully catch up with more friends (old and new).

Tonight is some kind of bi-monthly (once every two months, not twice a month) event at the Voodoo Room (Lounge?) which sounds like an upscale Duckie (which in itself sounds a bit oxymoronic). Can't wait.

Catch you on the flip side.

August 9, 2008

First Class Theatre

A quick hello from rainy Edinburgh.

Heading out to meet the lovely Christina from the 2am Haiku Club in a bit so I'll be brief.

I saw The. Most. Amazing piece of theatre yesterday. It's called Terminus, and it's put on by Dublin's Abbey Theatre at the Traverse. If you have the chance to be anywhere near Edinburgh (and it's only a Fellini train ride away if you're anywhere in the UK) over the next couple weeks, I can't recommend it enough.

The words are poetic and dreamily disturbing. The staging is simple ... 3 people standing on platforms inside a frame of shattered glass. Three of the most compelling actors I've ever seen take turns delivering monologues that become increasingly intertwined. It is stunning. A master class in how to take command of the stage and tell a story. A rather twisted, slightly surrealistic, story involving suicide, murder, demons and the selling of souls ... but a beautiful one nonetheless.

And from the sublime to the ridiculous, we're seeing Pam Ann tonight. I hope I get into first class.

August 3, 2008

Murders, Madness, Revenge and Whatnot

The highlight of yesterday's trip to Stratford was a visit to the town's newest tea house/coffee shop: To Bean or Not to Bean.

Thank you, thank you very much, I'm here all week. Try the veal.

The raison d'roadtrip was to see David Tennant and Patrick Stewart in the Royal Shakespeare Company's newest mounting of Hamlet. It doesn't open until Tuesday so by all accounts reviews aren't appropriate.

That said ('cause I'm always appropriate), it was a good production (first act better than second) and said stars did what they needed to do without blowing the roof off the theatre.

The big surprise of the night was Oliver Ford Davies' Polonius. The night completely belonged to him and his brilliantly hysterical performance of a dithering old man (although the giggly girls who tittered every time Tennant pulled a face or made a funny voice ... none of which he hasn't made as the Doctor ... may beg to differ).

Today was a perfect rainy day. A bit of a lie-in (didn't get home from Bardsville until almost 2am) and then most all of the sofa, watching a collection of the past few months' Sky+ed episodes of The Closer and doing the NY Times Sunday crossword. Life be good.

Tomorrow is more theatre (Harper Regan at the National) and then up to Edinburgh on Thursday for a long weekend of the Festival with assorted friends who'll represent 4 cities, 3 countries and 2 continents.

Yeah, you can call me yogurt ... I'm just a big tub of culture.