Wednesday, 30 August 2006

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Monday night, as I was filling my Sainsburys singleton basket with a lone fillet of salmon and some leeks and spinach, I spotted a guy I went out on a date with the night after I met the Fig. (I had hoped things would work out with the Fig, but I’m a pessimist and figured as this other date was already in the diary, I might as well go on it.)

This guy – J. – was boring, both compared to the Fig and otherwise. He also seemed to have a penchant for exaggeration and extreme editing of his life. Oh, yeah – and he was short. (I must stop pretending I can ever go out with a man who is shorter than I am – I just can’t.) Still, there he was in the chicken/meat aisle of Sainsburys, looking rather loved up with a girl who was (a) taller than him and (b) wearing an engagement ring. This was almost as bad – if not worse – as spying a guy I went on a date with in ’04 celebrating a wedding anniversary at Claridges when I was there for my birthday this year.

I did not stop, I did not pass go, I headed directly to the fake meat products aisle – J. is an avowed carnivore -- and busied myself label reading. (I bought some Quorn “pork and apple” patties that ended up tasting – and smelling – so revolting that it wasn’t enough to throw them in the trash. I actually take the trash to the curb, then open a window, and light my jasmine Diptyque candle just to get rid of the stench.)

I spent the rest of that supermarket trip with my eyes fixed firmly on the ground or at a label, lest I look up somewhere and catch his eye. What the hell was he doing in my neighborhood – never mind with what appeared to be a fiancée, and when I was looking rather crappy as I had Rudolph nose from my cold and frizzy hair from the rain? There should be a law. Oh, wait – there is one. It’s called Murphy’s.

• * *

In my continuing effort to (a) work a bit less and (b) attempt to enjoy/appreciate London, I popped to the National Gallery for a half hour yesterday. (I had to take a few calls while I was there, but at least I tried.)

There’s a guy who collects random (and sometimes stupid) things people say on the Tube – I think I might have to start doing that at art galleries. It wasn’t quite as bad as my afternoon at the Courtauld, but then again, I did put my iPod on in defense after a while.

Two women standing in front of Cezanne’s “Landscape With Poplars”: “It’s too busy-looking,” says one to the other. "Why didn't he do it in black and white?"

Male to female in front of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers: “This one is very famous.”

I’d love to hear what people say standing in front of the Mona Lisa…

Thursday, 24 August 2006

Me Write Pretty One Day

Like blogging and using the overground trains in London, I am coming so late it cannot possibly be fashionable to the David Sedaris fan club. I mean, it's past last call and the only people left are the drunken ones hooking up in the corner because they both have roommates and have nowhere else to go.

I’m not sure why I avoided Sedaris. I think maybe I conflated him in my head with David Foster Wallace – I am not a fan of post-post-modernist work. Reading endless footnotes just reminds me of my junior year of high school, where we had an entire American history exam of questions based only on information that came from the photo captions (and of course, no advance warning that that’s what the exam would be based on). Or maybe “humorist” reminds me too much of Dave Barry, and although at one point I found him funny, at this point in my life I’m not really up for an entire book of booger, bodily function, and frat boy jokes. And it can't have helped that I remember reading an essay of Sedaris' in the New Yorker -- about a boil he had (I think possibly on his butt) -- that just didn’t thrill me.


I picked up Me Talk Pretty One Day while leaving the last hotel I was staying in in St. Tropez. The incredibly rude staff – you’d think 900 euros a night would get you something, but you’d be wrong, at least in France – was being incredibly unhelpful with any travel arrangements to Nice. As I’d been the one sorting out most of the logistics (hotel rooms, etc) for the previous six days, I was happy when one of the (French-speaking) freelancers I was working with took over. I plucked Me Talk Pretty One Day off a shelf in the hotel's library and, when it came time to go, took it with me. I figured I deserved it. (It didn't match their faux antique books on display, anyway.)

I didn’t get around to reading it for a week or so, but when I did, Oh. My. God. I was laughing out loud on the Tube. And when I wasn’t laughing out loud, I was admiring (and envying) the grace, the pacing, and the unbelievable powers of observation.

Plus, why can’t I have a sister as cool as Amy?

Tuesday, 22 August 2006

The Road Not Taken

A good friend of mine’s wife is five months pregnant, and I found out via e-mail from a friend who was on the initial e-mail list.

I looked at the other names on the list – nearly four years ago, before I moved here, I would have been on it.

Sunday, 20 August 2006

Creep #737

So I forgot to write about the guy I met on the people mover – or whatever it’s called – that brings you from your plane to the main terminal at Dulles Airport.

Let me rephrase: The creep I met.

Last week I was listening to him loudly explaining to an English woman how the people mover worked (it’s not rocket science) and then nattering on about the various Washington airports. He gave this woman incorrect information about transport to the various airports, and I stepped in to correct it (nicely).

“I used to live here,” I explained.

“Where did you live?” he asked.

“Dupont Circle,” I said.

He made a face. “Today that’s known as where all the gay people live,” he said.

I looked him in the eye and said: “It was that way when I lived there, too.” Then I moved as far away from him as I could get.

Ugh. I knew I should have been suspicious when I kept hearing him refer to National Airport as “Reagan Airport.”

Monday, 14 August 2006

Something Blue

One of the first books I saw in the Borders at Dulles Airport Thursday* was The Married Guy’s. It was with more curiosity than pain or urge to stalk that I picked it up – the book is about a topic I love.

First page: “To [name of his wife.]”


I put the book down.

Then I wondered if, with his obsession with all things American, I suddenly might hear from The Fig after the terror plot was unveiled.

I didn’t.

I thought about him and The Married Guy all weekend, though.

At my sister’s shower Sunday – more on that later – the table decorations were mini bamboo plants in little pots that said things like “happiness,” “prosperity,” and “love.” I had “prosperity” in front of me but traded it for a “love” to take back to London.

“I need all the help I can get,” I joked to my sister.

She said: “I know, right?”

* * *

When we were growing up, my sister frequently used to wonder which one of us would get married first. I didn’t – without knowing why, exactly, I was sure it would be her.

Still, it is one thing to expect it and another thing actually to deal with it. I should have expected my sister would go crazy, with her More Than Two Months’ Rent in My Flat Gown, her Vera Wang invitations and earnest discussion of wax seals for them (yes, wax seals!), her Two More Months’ Rent Worth of Skincare and Makeup Products (I spotted La Prairie in her bathroom yesterday). Mostly, I find her Bridezilla tendencies funny.

At her shower yesterday, I talked to a couple of her friends I knew well and then busied myself making – as tradition apparently mandates (or so my sister’s wedding-obsessed or already-married friends tell me) – the hat covered with bows from the shower presents that the bride has to wear to the rehearsal dinner. I watched her open flour sifters and oil and vinegar bottles and things I didn’t recognize and she didn’t until recently. It seems her fiance is the cook in the family, and actually went out the other weekend to create a registry for the two of them at Sur La Table. I listened to her joke about this and busied myself cutting ribbons and affixing them to a paper plate with tape.

Dear God, are there some napkins I can fold at the wedding? Or maybe a really, really complicated crossword puzzle required by Jewish law?

Seriously, I was still mostly OK with everything until I spotted the salad bowl we used in my family for as long as I can remember on her counter, and these blue and white flour and sugar canisters of my grandmother’s behind them.

“Did you take the salad bowl from Dad’s basement?” I asked.

“Yeah, I needed some stuff,” she said, my grandmother’s diamond glittering on her left hand in the new setting my sister and her fiance created for it. “I can’t find anything in there, anyway.”

My mother and grandmother were always so careful about everything being equal, or as equal as possible, particularly gifts. But now my mother is gone and my grandmother -- after years of watching all her friends’ grandkids get married -- is thrilled to be around for the marriage of one of her own, and, she thinks, probably the only one she’ll see. Still, I couldn’t help wondering what else my sister took or has gotten – what other things I might have wanted and for which there is no equal waiting for me someday.

On top of everything else, it is hard to take.

*yes, I travelled to the US from London on Thursday, and yes, it was not fun. I had to write about it for my employer’s web site and I don’t think there’s much more to say. Oh, except: My original piece was much better than the edited one.

Wednesday, 9 August 2006

Pet Peeve #637

People who walk three, four, and five abreast on the sidewalk. Slowly.

Monday, 7 August 2006

"There's an Art Gallery Two Blocks Away / And We've Finally Been There"

Today during lunch I went to the Courtauld Gallery, just down the street from my office. For months – make that years – I’ve thought I should go there, or to the National Gallery or the Portrait Gallery, both of which are a 10-minute walk down the Strand. (Maybe 15 if I’m working on my New Year’s resolution to wear more of my cute – read, uncomfortable -- shoes more often.) But then I have to file something by wire opening (2 p.m. GMT, often stretched to 3 p.m.), or it rains, or I have an errand to run, or I want to go to the gym, or the shoes are too uncomfortable, or…

But today – spurred by a weekend of Let Me Count the Ways This Job is Ruining My Life – I decided I absolutely needed to start taking my lunch hour for myself if I could, and that I ought not shop, because I might just quit and go freelance and then what will I do with the frillionth pair of shoes I’ve hoovered up because I deserve them, dammit. Besides, maybe I should, um, save the money or something.

As luck would have it, entry to the gallery was free today, but had I had to pay, it would have been well worth the five quid. Manet’s Dejeuner Sur l’herbe and A Bar at the Folies Bergere (in reproductions, I had never noticed the legs hanging off the trapeze in the upper left corner), Monets, Renoirs, Pissarros, Degas paintings and sculptures, Seurats (including a study for A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte)… I wasn’t so enamored of the Derains and Matisses, which bring back unpleasant memories of an unsuccessful art history paper I wrote my freshman year of college, but I just might go back every Monday (free between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.) to visit the Impressionists, plus the Van Goghs and Picassos.

My one complaint: Some of my fellow patrons. What is with the need to comment on every piece of art one sees? (My other pet peeve is when two people stand for ages in front of a painting in a very crowded exhibition, yammering about what they did the night before. Hello, that’s what the coffee shop is for.) Today, standing in front of Degas’ Two Dancers on the Stage, I heard a man say to his female companion: “He was a very, very good artist.” Then on to the Pissarro: “He was also a very good artist.”

* * *

Speaking of pet peeves, can someone please explain to me why tourists like to block the whole of Covent Garden watching people pretend to be statues? I cannot get to the Tube, or to Boots, or to get some lunch because crowds of people are standing around watching other people stand perfectly still. What is the appeal? Next are they going to be photographing paint drying?

Sunday, 6 August 2006

The Anti Charlie's Angels

To anyone who’s ever seen my office, it probably will not come as a surprise that I can’t find the cable to download my photos from St. Tropez. So for now, you’ll just have to imagine Pam and Kid Rock’s wedding décor (much classier than you’d expect) and the shockingly awful size of my arms (think not just “the size of thighs” but the size of multiple thighs) in sleeveless dresses I wore cardigan-less because I left my white cardigan at Pammy’s wedding reception.

The St. Tropez trip was better than expected, mostly because of the company of two freelancers. (We started calling ourselves the anti Charlie’s Angels). If I’d had to go to all these parties and clubs on my own, I might have gone crazy. Because there were few hotel rooms to be found, the three of us ended up sharing one room – and in the process of that and the reporting we spent so much time together that I practically felt bereft when I got back to London.

Worst, most St. Tropez pickup line: “What’s your name? I’ll name a yacht after you.” Unfortunately not uttered by the undeniably attractive Stavros Niarchos, but rather by a 45-year-old Danish businessman. I did not fall for it. (Upon hearing this line, my friend O. texted me: “So how’s the SS [my last name] today?” I am still giggling – though I did pause to wonder if this was some reference to my size. Sigh.)

And some numbers:

Cost of a glass of water at Les Caves du Roy at the Hotel Byblos: 24 euros.

Cost of a methusalah of Dom Perignon champagne at Les Caves: 30,000 euros (and club’s playing of Star Wars theme is free).

Total hours of sleep I got in five nights: 14

Number of times Paris Hilton offered me a joint in the Les Caves bathroom: 1

Number of assistants Diddy had hunting for the same diamond earring: 3

Number of times Diddy’s mom asked me where the Jacuzzi was: 1

Total number of women I saw with anything approximating a normal body fat percentage: 3.

Number of times French people bumped into me without saying "excuse me": Approximately 50.

Number of times I wished I could tell the Fig about it all: 6 (approx.)

Number of times I congratulated myself for having deleted his number from my mobile: 60 (approx.)

Average cost of white kaftan in St. Tropez boutiques: 400 euros.

Cost of the George of Asda white broderie anglaise dress I wore: 12 pounds.

Number of freelancers brave enough to wear white bath towels I took from the pool to Diddy's White Party, because they didn’t have anything else white: 2

Number of e-mails I got referring to me as the St. Tropez bureau chief: 1

Number of times a random guy in the parking lot flinched when we stopped him at 4 a.m. and asked him to take a picture of us posing a la Charlie’s Angels with the supersoaker we took from the White Party: 0.