Published: September 18th 2011September 17th 2011
3am, 13th September
I left young Phoebe Holman's residence in East London to hoppenzie on the bus to Liverpool Street. This seemed like a good idea until I got to the bus stop.
Firstly; it was 3.15am, and the bus didn't arrive for at least another 20minutes. So standing there in my newly purchased Paul Smith clobber, laptop in my bag, and a boarding school education behind me, I concluded that it was probably a good idea to get in a cab.
Minutes before this realisation, as I ascertained which bus stop I was to use, I got warned as I passed by a gentleman on the opposite side of the road, who's girlfriend(?) was sat on the floor crying, to "keep your eyes to yourself, and walk on bruv". Luckily his bus stop was not mine, which saved a lot of confusion and possibly a broken jaw / black eye.
My cab was stylish, in an East London sense, the doors opened by themselves and the driver didn't speak. This was slightly unnerving as I asked him approximately 4 questions. It wasn't until I let him keep the change of a tenner from an £8 fare that his mouth opened, and filtered air came out. However; this didn't sound like a thank you. It was reminiscent of the gestures I have received in 'The Best' on Stokes Croft in Bristol when purchasing late night alcohol with a pretty girl.
When finally I arrived at Liverpool Street Station, I was greeted by a wrought iron gate that was locked, and a security guard who again said nothing when I asked him "what time do you open?". For some reason, he ushered me into the adjoined McDonalds. where I felt it was necessary to purchase a coffee, thinking that this would gain me early entry to the station. Alas, I was wrong.
Once 4am came, myself and all the other people/impromptu McD's customers, were allowed into the concourse. I purchased my ticket for the "Stanstead Express" and made my way onto the train. Whilst I setup my laptop into the complimentary power supply, and lined up an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, an older couple sat in the seats opposite me and they both had very distressed looks on their faces. If anyone has ever travelled on the Stanstead Express, you will know how obvious it is that you are in fact on 'The Stanstead Express', with signage, and memorabilia everywhere. Seconds after the train conductor had finished his introductions on the tannoy, explaining every stop that we were to make before we reached the final destination of London Stanstead.
After a few strange meetings of our eyes, the man sat opposite (who was Irish (not that this matters)) reluctantly asked me "is this the Stanstead Express?" !!! Being mildly drunk, and a bit of a prick, I burst into laughter. This didn't go down very well, with the man or his wife. Their looks changed from tired early risers, to distressed elders who had just been humiliated in front of roughly 12 Ryan Air stewards, and a pair of German (possibly Swiss) skiers. Feeling that I had overstepped the mark of social decency, I struck up a great conversation with the couple, aligning my thoughts with theirs, and soon enough all was forgotten.
I won't report about Stanstead airport, as realistically, there is nothing to talk about. Except the fact that my plane was powered by a turbo prop, and not a jet engine. (For those interested in Aeronautics check this link
and look for the smallest, shittest plane in the Air Berlin fleet.
Once my flight was in the air, I started to read the latest truths by my man Steven Hawking in "The Grand Design" and was interrupted by a lovely frauline with maybe too much make-up on. She spoke in a very soft voice, and as I have a reasonable grasp of the german language, I was able to exchange my gratitude for the large bread pretzel that she placed in my hand. Never before has such a snack entered my face, and I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed there was a considerable amount of butter inside the looping shiny snack. I quaffed it down with a (complimentary) cup of coffee, and looked out upon the English channel.
After what seemed like about 20 minutes, the pilot suggested that I put my seatbelt back on, as we were starting our descent into Dusseldorf International Airport. Once we arrived I was amazed at how quickly, efficiently, and professionally the plane was dealt with. Luggage extracted from the hold within minutes of landing, and the plane refuelled. I imagined what this would be like at an English airport, but then I stopped caring.
Dusseldorf Airport was about as exciting as Stanstead, however one thing that did make me smile was during my re-entrance to the departure lounge, was when the security guard asked to search my luggage, and had to sift through 2 days worth of filthy gruds that I had just changed out of in the toilet. His hands picking through the soiled laundry. Clearly he was used to it, or liked it. The only thing he looked at strangely was the Poi set that I had received a few days earlier as a leaving gift. I nearly started to explain the 'Play-Poi' concept to him, but thought that sharing my urea with another man is as far as I should go, and ideas I have created at festivals probably wouldn't translate very well auf Deutsch.
After a small wait and some snacks, I was boarded onto an Air Berlin Airbus A330, the pride of the fleet by all accounts. Eager to settle into my slightly uncomfortable seat, with a broken head rest, I wrestled my way through the in-flight magazine. The films available to watch were somewhat aged. The best of the bunch being "Four weddings and a funeral". So I aptly prepared myself to view it 4 times, and with meal breaks in between, my flight would, well, fly by.
Needless to say, things didn't quite work out so smoothly. At many points during the first viewing, I was interrupted by the (fit) stewardess who had been assigned to my area, offering me drinks and such. Again, my grasp of the german language helped me out, yet surprisingly, the stewardess picked english as our language of exchange.
Within an hour of the flight's departure, the stewardess asked me where I was from, and told me that she "loved my accent"..."Where are you from..?" she said..."England" I replied....predicting that I was about to become the newest member of 'the mile high club', I tried to think of something really whitty and sharp. But the best thing I could come up with was..."so you are obviously from.....? Germany..?" This being blatantly obvious as I was flying on Air Berlin, and had just boarded at Dusseldorf International. She turned away, with a disappointed look on her face, and pushed her trolley to the mid-section of the plane, and out of my life. She did give me an extra large Baileys about 6 hours later, but I think she probably regretted this when I fell asleep and inevitably annoyed many people on the flight with my snoring.
One person that was evidently not put off by my sleeping habits was the young lady sat next to me (lucky girl). She explained to me that she had flown from Tajikistan to go to the US to learn English. This baffled me, for obvious reasons, and as I helped her fill in her immigration forms, she explained a lot of stuff about her home country. As I had no idea where Tajikistan is, I imagined it was like Kazakhstan, only smaller, which she agreed with. She had the longest name I have ever seen, and I wish I could remember it for the sake of this blog, but it would be like rewriting the Quran or other similar texts.
Just as Hugh Grant nails Andie McDowell for the final time before she gets married, we started our decent into San Francisco International airport, the pilot promised us a fly by of the Golden Gate bridge, and as loads of eager passengers looked out the window, the pilot then explained that the inherent San Francisco bay fog had spoiled his plans. I was happy, mainly because I have already seen the GG bridge, and also because I was sat in the aisle, without a view. Justice.
Arriving in SFO I was greeted by Homeland Security, who asked me many questions about my trip. I had answered many of these weeks before at the US Embassy in London, and yet again, when asked how much money I have in my bank account, they let me in. Little do they know that I plan to blow it all on hookers, guns, and prostitutes. (In ode to Hugh Grant).
My first jaunt into the Bay Area was a nice meal in a Japanese restaurant. Having not slept properly for about 52 hrs, I was slightly bewildered. Jet lag, added to Bob Marley's favourite strain of sensimilla, put me in dreamy state, where I couldn't eat with chopsticks, and placing food in my mouth was very challenging. Shortly after this, I retreated to my digs, and slept for roughly 12hrs. My snoring again causing an issue with my host, even from the room next door.
Wednesday 14th September
Due to an arranged social engagement, I had to stay elsewhere for this evening. After failing to secure a bed in the dorm of The Berkely Hostel, I found the cheapest hotel Berkely has to offer. The Berkeley Inn's reviewers granted it 2 stars, and in reality I give it 1. It was like a motel in the movies where rich people commit adultery, or psychotic weirdos make holes in walls. I think the clerk was surprised that I actually wanted to stay for a whole night, but after finalising my payments, he pointed me up stairs. I wondered whether it was bullet-proof glass I had to exchange all my necessaries with him, but tried to think of happier stuff when I considered what that means.
My room smelt like an amsterdam coffee shop, which was ideal, and no sooner had I laid on my bed and flicked through 'cable tv' did I hear some strange animalistic noises from my neighbours. Maybe they were practising for a production of Orwell's classic "Animal Farm". Perhaps they were watching a very niche type of nature documentary. More than likely, they were going at hammer and tongs
in the small window of time that they have before their spouses get suspicious, or the professional lady's meter ran out. Luckily for me there was a dreamworks film on TV about a paedo murderer, starring Mark Walberg. So I turned up the volume, downed 4 cans of Bud Light, and duly fell to sleep.
My host asked me to escort her to a birthday party 9 blocks away from her house. So I thought it would be a good idea, as parties are usually fun, and I could mingle with new folk. After picking up some beers and wine to take to the party, we entered through a side door of a tall house. There were no signs of life at all, apart from about 25 pairs of shoes at the bottom of a stairway...as we got to the summit of the stairs it became apparent that we had interrupted a 'circle of friends'. Everyone was sat around holding hands whilst the birthday boy/man (Yari) spoke very calmly in a relaxed and peaceful tone. As I was introduced to the whole room, I started to feel slightly misplaced, as the clinking from my six pack of beers destroyed the peaceful silence, and my Nike jumper didn't exactly align with the tie dye smock-shirts, and relaxed 'conscious' clothing that everyone was sporting.
Shortly after introducing myself to as many people as possible and I was informed that my accent is "very charming". A few people started to play different instruments...Jessica (my host) playing the intriguing Hang drum, Yari on the bongos, a guy called John chanting, a lady also chanting, another guy banging a rhythm box of sorts, and another bloke on what I can only describe as an irish drum..?
Not having a instrument to play, or being capable of doing so, I sat and watched the incredible entity of what was in front of me...getting through my beer with ease, and exiting for cigarette breaks as often as socially acceptable. Once everyone had finished getting spiritual, it became time to leave.
Today I made my way into the City of San Francisco with a mission to purchase a small piece of audio equipment from a guy I had been in contact with on Craigslist (gumtree for americans). To get from Berkeley to SF you have to use the Bay Area Rapid Transit aka BART. Which is a bit like the London Underground, with less stops, more time between stops, and ultimately more expensive. However; the usual issues of travelling on the tube exist here. Eye contact on a minimal level, reflection beef (where one creates beef with someone when they realise that by staring out of the window, you end up staring directly into the reflected eyes of another commuter, and therefore create a level of 'beef' with them), and the never ending issue of whether you let a woman/old person/disabled person sit in your seat or whether this is politically incorrect.
After a small trek through Chinatown where I found a reasonable Dim Sum restaurant, I found myself down in little italy, and then finally into a guitar centre ( or 'center' if you're into bastardised language). After a couple of purchases, and getting called 'bro' a lot I embarked on a small trek to the harbour, watched the boats go by, and thought about getting to Alcatraz. With this all behind me, I am now sat in a Starbucks (which I totally disagree with in principle) writing this looking at a slightly deranged man walk from the toilet to the door, and back again over and over again. As I suck the lasts of my Caramel Frappuchino I realise that I quite like this place...even though crossing the road is a total fucking mission.
until next time...farewell x