Cutting Corners at Corners: A Jaywalker’s Story

So after being in London for almost two weeks, I’ve undoubtedly crossed hundreds of streets (no exaggeration—I do a lot of walking here). However, each time I see the curb recede before me I find myself overwhelmed by a barrage of impulses, contradictory instincts, and well, cars. So allow me to give you an exclusive look into the inner workings of my mind as I approach and attempt to cross a British intersection:

Scene: Chloe walking to a pub near campus to meet writers and editors for the LSE newspaper, The Beaver.

Chloe’s inner dialogue: Brrrr, this has to be the coldest day since I’ve been in London. It’s really a shame that the “Indian Summer” is over. I wonder where the term “Indian Summer” even came from (ponders this for .3 seconds). So. Cold. Where is this pub?! The email said that it’s only like five minutes from campus but they were probably just trying to get people to come. Grr. LIARS. Maybe I won’t go. THAT’LL SHOW THEM! No, wait, I should go. I want to meet more Brits. (Five seconds pass) Maybe I’ll just walk in, yell “YOU LIAR” in a British accent like Harry Potter to Voldemort in the first movie and then walk out (see clip).

No. Wait. That won’t even give me enough time to get warm before going back out to the cold. Yeah, that won’t do. If it was warm, I so would. Maybe. Probably…not. Oh my god, I think I see it, The Knights Templar (pub name)! Alas! Okay, I just need to cross the street. The crosswalk thingy says no walking, but hey, this isn’t LA and I don’t see any clear and present danger. I’m cold and I’m going. (Takes four steps off the curb looking straight ahead with eyes on the prize—the pub) Wait did I look left, or was I supposed to look right? Crap. Oh, it says on the ground by the curb which way to look (turns around in the middle of street while staring at the ground)! Oh, okay, it was right (looks right to see taxi barreling down the street with no intention of slowing down, and scurries back to the sidewalk). Hmm. I guess I should keep my head up when I want to cross the street. This isn’t New York where pedestrians have the right of way.

Alright, let’s try this again. Look right (looks right). Check. Maybe I’ll look left, just to be extra safe this time (looks left). Check. Actually, I should probably look right one more time before I cross because that is the way the curb said to look (looks right again). Should I look left one more time? No, people will probably stop anyway because I look as if I’m convulsing at this point. Okay time to go! (Begins crossing the street) Yes, I’ve made it past where I was before. I’m almost there. Just a couple more st—(HONNNNNNNNNKKKKKKK).

Shit. Where did this car come from!? Oh wait. I didn’t take into account the turn lane. Okay, I’ll just wave to the driver and give him a cute smile to apologize (waves and smiles to the passenger staring blankly out of the window. Not being the driver nor paying much attention, the man looks out of the window very confused why this girl is standing in the middle of street smiling and waving at him. He narrows his eyes to try to figure out if he knows her somehow).

Why is the driver looking at me so weird? Wait, he’s not the driver, he’s the passenger. Damn. Why is the passenger waving at me now? He probably thinks that I think we know each other.  Great. Do I wave back? Or is that an ironic wave? How long have I been standing in the middle of the street? Maybe he is waving me to get out of the street. Wow, I’m such a foreigner. Just pretend you don’t speak English! Wait, no one is talking, that won’t work. Just get out of the road (walks and finally reaches sidewalk). Yes, I’ve made it! I need a drink.

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Lond(on)Film

Being that my last post was quite lengthy and there have been several requests for more pictures of London, I decided that I would change the pace a little and share some of my favourite (Is my attempt to be British getting annoying yet?) photographs thus far.

Some streets of London are lined with these tall trees that seem to arch over the street forming a verdant ceiling. I wonder if they have exclusively aesthetic value or actually have a practical purpose as well (I imagine that these trees could provide refuge from the city’s frequent rain fall acting as an almost natural umbrella. Hmm, I kind of like that concept).

Anyway, let’s zoom in on one of these trees.

So do they pose a threat? Maybe they’re not quite as benevolent as I thought.

No, wait, ah ha! They are nice trees! I saw this doctored sign right by the LSE campus. Major kudos to the person who did this, the altering is seamless!

Ahh, I love Europe, everything is so classy. Even the garbage truck (aka Eurotrash) is a Mercedez Benz!

Because I simply needed a picture of Big Ben.

My Italian friend, Giovanni, and, um, the Queen? Creeeepy. I am really quite convinced that it’s a guy under the mask. I mean, just look at that hand…

The only thing better than capturing sights and landmarks by pictures, is capturing other people take pictures of sights and landmarks. So behold…

A person in Chinatown, I think she may know that I’m taking a pictures of her…whoops. Not so stealth. (Damn, look at that glare)

I really like this one. With the captivating background scenery, this girl is checking to see if she looks hot enough in the picture just taken by the guy on the bike.

Blonde chick vs. the neo-Gothic architecture of the Palace of Westminster—who will win?! Stay tuned.

Rub-a-dub-dub Three Brits in a Pub

So, today I had the opportunity to sit down with some real live Brits. I met them while at a meeting/tour with my LSE Government mentor (a rather eager-to-help third year German student named Hendrik).

After the meeting and an overly comprehensive tour of LSE’s campus (it’s very easy to navigate and the British seem to have an affinity towards large maps—every building and street corner has one—so a forty minute tour seemed superfluous) one of the British students suggested that we go grab drinks at the pub. Still jet lagged and in a fog from a small incident with Benadryl the previous day (I was having some serious allergy problems, so I decided, at 4 a.m., after a night of drinking, that I should pop 3 Benadryl. Let’s just say I woke up the next day sometime around 3 p.m., despite 4 phone alarms and a fire drill, in a barely lucid state) I figured that my concept of time was not exactly reliable and it was probably later than I thought. So I glanced down at my watch, it was, in fact, only 11:37 a.m., but I was in no position to pass up (British) friends (everyone get the Mean Girls reference? Good.). So at 11:37 IN THE MORNING I went to the CAMPUS pub for some drinks.

I think that the most effective way to relay the vast array of information conveyed to me by my new British mates is by providing a character breakdown. So, I would like to introduce you to:

Hannah

Your quintessential British girl. Red hair, a little edgy yet somewhat refined and proper. Uses words like, cooky, posh, and my personal favourite (see what I did there?) vintage (I swear it sounds more astute with an accent) when describing one of our peer’s older model cell phones (I would love to see what you she would call my orange phone from back in the States SHOUT OUT BURNT ORANGE EN-V!). Loves American tele. Has been to Tucson, Arizona and thought it was (use British accent when reading) “the weirdest place on Earth.”

Best things I learned from Hannah

Important English fact: In England, in order for an area or town to obtain the title of a city, all it has to do is have a Cathedral, there is no population stipulation. Therefore, there are many places called cities that would be no more than small towns by US standards.

Important Life Knowledge: There is a show called Geordie Shore (http://www.mtv.co.uk/shows/geordie-shore), that takes place in Newcastle and it is the UK version of the Jersey Shore. Hannah did not seem particularly keen on it because she felt that the producers just tried to replicate the characters and storylines of Jersey Shore—much too contrived for her liking. Her descriptions of the type of people on the show seemed very similar to our definition of “guido.” I imagine the only thing worse than being a cast member on the Jersey Shore is being an attempted duplication of them (shudder).

Projected friend-type: She’s a fresher (freshman in British terminology) so slight discrepancy in maturity level, however, I did enjoy talking to her. The type of friend who you run into on campus and have an extended conversation about some arbitrary topic but thoroughly enjoy talking to, as opposed to the kind of person you maintain a conversation with for the sake of being polite.

Uhh, possibly Chris? Don’t exactly remember his name. He was from Liverpool and was the spitting image of Paul McCartney when he was young (see photo below), so let’s just call him Paul

More reserved. Didn’t really add to much to the conversation, however, his sheer presence seemed to imbue the scene with some serious British flair (perhaps it was the Beatles haircut).  He did get rather enthused when the conversation turned to the topic of Jaffa Cakes. These are apparently (as described by Hannah) thin sponge cakes, with an orange jelly layer, and a chocolate coating. Despite not having much to say previous, Paul/Chris was, surprisingly, very insistent on the particular way to consume a Jaffa cake. He claims that you have to eat the chocolate first, then the orange jelly layer, and lastly the sponge cake. Hannah disagreed. I might have to see about this one for myself. Oh, in case you don’t exactly understand this description of what this “cake” looks like (because I surely did not), I provided a picture:

Best thing I learned from Chris/Paul

Important Hair/Style Tip: Looking like Paul McCartney no longer guarantees you swooning girls—even in London.

Projected friend-type: The sort of “friend” that you acknowledge when passing on campus with a wave or head nod. That is of course, unless I’m carrying some Jaffa cakes.

Maximillian a.k.a. Max 

I’m not going to disclose his last name, but his full name was incredibly “posh” (as stated by Hannah) even for British standards.

Unkempt hair. When Hannah asked if his hair was naturally like that or did he do something to it, his response was,  “A couple years ago I decided not to shower for two months and it began self-washing” (Hmm, not exactly answering the question there Maximillian). Now, normally, if someone were to say this, I would be more than slightly put off (I’m guessing you might be right now). However, there was something rather intriguing about Max.

He was dressed in white-striped grey pants (somewhat tight), a denim long sleeve button-up shirt that seemed as if he threw it on mere seconds before walking into the room, the collar was still completely tucked underneath the shirt and he made no effort to adjust it, and brown leather shoes that I’m fairly certain he swiped from his aristocratic grandfather.

Looks like the “slacker” type. Feverishly scribbles information (such as meeting times and places) on his hand, which appears to have served as his notepad for the past few years.

But then he started talking…

He was full of recondite information. Every sentence began with, “I read that…” (but not in the pretentious manner). His erudition was downright astounding (especially concerning America).

Example fact that I learned from Max: Kentucky has the most smokers than any other American state, 23% of the population smokes.

Yeah, he even retains statistical data.

Besides from just being a portable New York Times database, he offered some unique perspectives and interesting ideas of his own.

He was an enigma. Straight-forward yet a complete mystery.

I liked him. A lot.

Projected friend-type: I could see us getting along very well. A good friend to do somewhat offbeat things with. I think that some people may be a little put off by Max because there is something unsettling about him. But I like him, he’s a character. And this is my story.

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Yogurtland anymore…

Today I was walking down the street in London when I spotted a place on the other side of the road called Snog. The name seemed vaguely familiar and no, not in the context of snogging as done in Harry Potter, but I had, for some reason, heard of the place before (I would later realize that someone told me to go there but read on for the juicy details). So I crossed the street (jaywalking is allowed in London–Take that LA!) and just from the sight of the cups-like bowls I knew what it was, the most divine creation one can ingest  (when confected correctly that is)–frozen yogurt.

I stood in front of Snog (http://www.ifancyasnog.com/) in a state of euphoria, the surrounding noises waned to a faint murmur, each cup of yogurt seemed to have a milky corona around it. They were beautiful, topped with decadent crumblings, each fro-yo cup perfectly brimming with sweet swirls, but then it hit me. Each cup was too perfect. As in they lacked the blemishes of fro-yo constructed by someone who erratically is trying to decide which to take more of, Chocolate Mint Cookie or Devil’s Food Cupcake Batter, and then, after making a decision, at the last minute, they change their mind and fro-yo spills out the side of bowl. No, these frozen yogurts were devoid of emotion, feeling, desire, in other words, they were constructed by people behind the counter (a la Pinkberry, Red Mango etc.). Despicable.

Amid my internal apocalypse, I heard a voice. Was it the Fro-yo Fairy coming to show these aimless souls the way? No, it was a woman standing outside the store handing out cards and repeating, “Get your card for a free sample!” She nudged me with one of her demonic cards. I thought to myself, nah, they are not giving cards out and trying to lure people into the store with a free sample size cup of fro-yo, as in the kind that is SUPPOSED TO BE FREE. So, I queued up (see I’ll be British in no time!) and when I got to the register I asked, “What do one of these cards get me?” (hoping that they would offer something more than a paltry sample cup). The (incredibly stylish and edgy) man disappeared into the back and emerged with….dum….dum…dumm….a sample cup of F****** TART YOGURT! I could not decide which was more egregious, the fact that they advertise free sample size cups of yogurt as something that you need a coupon for or that this man had gotten me tart flavored fro-yo.

Right after I stormed out of the shoppe, I poked my tongue into the overly-airy-too-gritty-insipid frozen yogurt (if you can call it that) and it quickly recoiled back in to my mouth. I was sure to accompany such a hideous reaction with an equally repellent face and a sound that was translatable to every language (UGHHEWWWW–See? Practicing sounds in the airport paid off!). Then I made a show of holding the (mostly full) cup of tart yogurt in front of me as if it were radioactive as I searched the streets for a garbage bin. However, this story does end on a sweet note, while looking for a garbage (there are a lot less than you would think) I came across a McDonalds and we all know (or should know) what that means, ICE CREAM (see exhibit A)! The cone was only 59 pence and absolutely delicious (if you are not already aware of MD’s greatest offering, consider yourself enlightened). So in sum, Yogurtland is still the preeminent fro-yo outlet (in the world?) and McDonalds ice cream can mend all problems.

Exhibit a:

“May a gentleman help a lady?”

So, my first day in London comes to end. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by the amicability and courteousness of Londoners. In my 56 minute trek (Underground and by foot) from Heathrow to my residence, no less than 3 different people helped me drag my obscenely overpacked luggage (when weighing my bags at check-in I made sure to dangle half of each suitcase off the scale without the guy seeing. I’m going to guess each bag is 70 pounds x 2) across the city. I couldn’t help but laugh when a guy approached me and in complete earnestness (read with British accent), “May a gentleman help a lady?”

First impression of Holburn, Convent Garden, and Leicaster Square area, it has a striking resemblance to Soho in Manhattan—lots of great shopping, nice restaurants, and sexy people. I had been told that London is very international but I didn’t expect to hear so many languages. I would say that I may have heard more French and Italian than British accents from people walking by.

Okay let’s look at some numbers of this first day:

# of times the guy at Vodafone store yelled at me because I kept saying dollars instead of pounds: 2

# of times someone approached me because they thought I was Italian (and not the Jersey Shore kind!): 2

# of times I was offered an alcoholic beverage: 6

# of times I was offered tea: 8

# of times I looked blankly at a Brit when I didn’t understand what they just said: 11

Not bad for a first day. I’m exhausted, I couldn’t even hold the camera straight to take a picture of the view from my window. However, it did yield a rather pretty photo:


Okay, so let’s start with the facts:

  1. My name is Chloe
  2. I’m a 20-year-old American college student
  3. I will be residing in London, England for the next year

I couldn’t bear to write an introduction that began with any permutation of a greeting e.g. Hey! Hello there. Hi. Howdy. Hola! ‘ello Mate (wait, is that British or Australian?). You get the idea. One reason being that I spent a solid forty minutes at the airport gate trying to decide which sounded the least corny without compromising congeniality and arrived at an unintelligible noise that in no way can be adequately conveyed through text (Okay fine, I’ll try, Ayyyyeeyy. See? Maybe I’ll add an audio clip if I can figure that out.). Second, I kept imagining myself stumbling across this random girl’s blog that began with one of those typical greetings then proceeded to explain her upcoming voyage to (fill in the blank) with airy excitement and for some inexplicable reason, I would feel an unjustifiable amount of contempt towards this imaginary girl and worse, I wouldn’t read her blog. So to sidestep all this mayhem (you better read my blog), I decided to enumerate the boring stuff, at least at that point I would be acknowledging its boringness, hopefully making me cooler in the blogging world where I’m still the new kid with some mystique (and a dark past?).

So let’s review what we’ve learned so far:

  1. Chloe spends her time sitting in corners of airports muttering noises to herself trying to decide on the perfect salutation
  2. Chloe wishes she was Ryan Atwood                                       
  3. Chloe’s blog is going to be about, uh, well, something

I imagine my blog will derive inspiration from Mythbusters (I want to refute or affirm stereotypes and preconceptions), The Parent Trap (If Lindsay Lohan can play both the twins so can I! First I was Hallie in California and now I’m Annie in London), Chasing Liberty (everyone loves a good Mandy Moore movie), Winning London (No one does it better than MK&A and, as if I need another reason, Mary-Kate’s name was Chloe in the movie!), and The Mighty Ducks (because Gordon Bombay is just damn right inspiring).

They have just announced they are boarding my plane. It is officially time to head across the pond—London is calling. Stay tuned.

No Pressure, First Blog Post Ever

So I’m a college girl getting ready for my trip to London for a year to study abroad when it  hits me. WRITE A BLOG.

First I over analyzed- what site should I use? What do I write about? How do I trick people into reading whatever it is I’m writing about? And what does blog mean? Is it an acronym? Concatenation? Stem from some Latin scripture? Or a 13-year old geek genius just knew how to put letters together and make something sound catchy?

I put a solid 8 minutes of brain power from bed before I forgot all about it.

BUT THEN, 5 hours later it hits me. WRITE A BLOG!

Duh! Too easy. All I need is a good take on the world. An angle. A story to keep viewers interested…

I got it! My mom and I stopped for McDonalds vanilla ice cream to celebrate (you’ll understand this better over time, so stay tuned)

Got home, pulled out the computer–got lost in IMDB for what Emilio Estevez has done since the Mighty Ducks 3 (nothing, in case you’re wondering) until 2 hours later when it hit me. WRITE A BLOG!

I knew I had a good idea at one point… Nope. Lost it.

Now, I’m not a scatter brain or have ADD or anything, but making the perfect blog was something I needed to discover. Something that had to be realized.

Then it hits me. HAVE DAVID WRITE MY BLOG!

Well not write it, but at least register it and get passed all that technical stuff and teach me. AND AC CAN DESIGN IT! She’s good at this stuff.

This was a good plan. Good enough to not think about it for 2 weeks until they got here.

Oh wait–back up. AC is my boobilicious older sis (photo pending if she let’s me) and David is her tech-savy film producer bf. I love them. (And yes, they’re sitting right here staring at me)

Anyway, short story even shorter–AC fell asleep instead of helping, and David got it online, but no time to design or teach me as I scramble to pack. No idea what to write about, how to do it, or what blog even means, but here I come internet.

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