Monday, October 06, 2008
I was having fun sending little Twitter updates from my phone on Saturday, gloating about my glamorous life. I found a last-minute deal on Eurostar for a daytrip to London, and thought, "Why the hell not? That's why we moved to Europe." Well, that and getting away from the festering pile of decay that is the political/economic atmosphere in the US - though that doesn't matter much in a globalized economy where we're all screwed anyway.
But I digress. While Joe Sixpack and Caribou Barbie are concerned about their insolvent banks and soon-to-be-foreclosed homes, we were living it up, sipping champagne and quaffing Scotch, hurtling toward London at some respectable fraction of the speed of sound.
We were on a First Class car full of Welsh pensioners on their way back from a coach tour of Switzerland, a jovial group averaging about 126 years in age. Give or take a few years. As the youngest people in the car, we apparently warranted a huge round of applause for our young newlywed status - or perhaps for our ability to withstand cold weather. Asked where we were from, we told them that we were Californians but now lived here. "What's wrong with you!?" one demanded. "It's too sunny in the States," we snarked back. "Skin cancer, you know."
"We love Florida," one of them said.
"I know," I wanted to say, "Old Brits love Florida more than George Michael loves anonymous sex and crack cocaine." But considering the company, I had to lie. "Oh, it's wonderful there. Orlando's brilliant any time of year!" I pandered to the couple who'd be sitting across the aisle from me for the next couple of hours.
To be honest, I don't blame them for loving Florida. All my memories of the place are fond. Gorgeous beaches, gorgeous women, gorgeous sunshine, more gorgeous women. Like me, they probably think "Beaches, binge drinking, and bikinis," and their subsequent perpetual boners, as opposed to "The Florida Gators, Katherine Harris, and Jeb Bush," which are enough to make anyone permanently flaccid. Florida is like Viagra - fun for the young who indulge in it, a last grasp at life for the aged, and a huge contributor to our fucked up system. How appropriate that it's shaped like the hanging schlong of America.
If Florida is America's cock, then London is Europe's pussy - or at least the loose-moraled hussy that keeps letting America fuck it. I'm not sure what the "special relationship" that Bush and Blair consummated is, exactly, but it doesn't seem like Gordon Brown has done anything to clean up the wet spot it left. Like its fellow sputtering empire, Britain is all commerical freewheeling and part police state.
Peppered amongst the 9,587 adverts flung at you every minute are stark reminders from the state. I don't mind being told to "Mind the Gap" on the Tube, but I get a bit uncomfortable being told, "Your town, your street, your home - it's all in the database." Or, "To find out what an illegal minicab can cost you, ask a rape victim." Or, "Think your belongings are safe? Think again."
Fear, fear, fear, and more fear!
Luckily, London is full of beer, beer, beer, and more beer!
Between rounds of shopping in the hipster-clogged new markets in the East End and the tourist-clogged high street shops of the West End, we downed some much-needed hand-pumped cask ale. Sure, you can get beer with a little bit of color in France, but even a pint of the crappy stuff costs an arm and a leg. After drinking beer (or attempting to, at least) in Paris, I somehow didn't mind putting down £3.30 ($5.80) for a pint of real ale. After all, you pay roughly $9 (with today's strong Dollar/Euro exchange rate, at that), for a single pint on the continent. Who knew that drinking in London could ever be considered cheap!?
The fact that a full pint of the good stuff costs less in London than a happy hour-priced pint of the yellow swill in Paris makes the trip worthwhile. Even if much of that trip is spent battling the morons of the London Underground.
I swear, I was about this close [gesturing with pinched fingers] to taking the head off of the next person who stood in the middle of a walkway, shoved me as I was moving faster than traffic as it was, or dragged their wheelie luggage across my foot with the 500-page hardcover tome on Ferran Adria I picked up at the bookstore.
That'd be the English-language bookstore. In England. Where the English books don't have to be imported. And subsequently don't cost as much as a mortgage or small vehicle, as they do in Paris.
Which has me thinking... Maybe more countries should dive into the downward spiral of financial mayhem. It makes for great bargain shopping. Anyone fancy a trip to Asia? I hear their markets are screwed, too.