I just traveled five hours to sit at Gimme! Coffee.

I’m sitting at Gimme! Brookyln on Lorimer St. in Williamsburg. Not surprisingly, it looks and feels identical to the Gimme! Coffee locations back home in Ithaca, boasting the same iconic stamped cups and white-on-black signage. There’s also the familiar ambiance of indie music playing in the background and kitschy artwork hanging along the white, black and red walls.

The lack of worthwhile eateries in Williamsburg is striking. The streets are littered with the usual fare: pizza, Chinese food, deli, deli, deli, pizza, pizza, pizza, Chinese food, Chinese food, and the occasional mom-and-pop Mexican restaurant also serving Chinese food as if it will drive more business. I settled on the greasiest slice of eggplant pizza I’ve ever eaten.

Tomorrow I’m going to McKarren Pool to see Modest Mouse in concert. Toodles.

Summer slack-off roundup.

It’s been awhile since I’ve managed to post. Here is a quick summary of what I’ve been up to, in one-word exclamations:

  • FLY! I returned from Europe in one piece.
  • MOVE! I moved off South Hill to a small apartment downtown.
  • PLAN! I planned a short trip to New York to see a Daft Punk concert and friends. I leave this Thursday.
  • PLAY! I played the drums and the banjo in Eric Stewart’s band Ghost In My Basement at No Radio Records. We lined up another show on September 1 at a Buzzsaw Haircut benefit show at Ithaca College.

So long, Dundee, and good riddance indeed.

Today was an adventure like all the others. I spent my usual hour in the morning finding my way to Buchanan Station in Glasgow; everything in this city looks the same! I boarded the bus to Dundee and slept most of the way there. Upon my arrival, I luckily tracked down a taxi to the conference so that I wasn’t stuck walking miles uphill as I was in the days prior. I was able to attend a few sessions for the first time the entire conference, and Ali gave our presentation. The presentation was fairly well-received by the conference attendees.

Following the conference, Ali and I made our way to the botanical gardens at the University for yet another refreshment session. The gardens were absolutely stunning:

Ali and I were having a jolly good time, joking and bantering down the street trying to find a restaurant that didn’t serve fish and chips or pizza. He was meeting some Norwegian fellows at a pub in Dundee at around 22:00. I had to catch my bus back to Glasgow at 20:40. At around 20:10, we settled on a Pizza Hut and made our way in. I lost track of time and, without surprise, missed my bus by thirty seconds in a rage running to the bus station. I walked the walk of shame back up the hill, pizza in hand, and told Ali the news.

I weighed my options. I could bum around town with Ali and the Norwegians and “figure something out,” or I could find another way home. Luckily, the folks working at the restaurant tracked down the next train to Glasgow that evening. We walked to the train station and I purchased my ticket. £20.40, which is approximately $40 USD for those of you keeping track at home.

The train station in Dundee is kind of like everything else in the city after 19:00: cold, dark, lonely, and terrifying. There was a young chap banging sticks up above the station looking down at me. The station was eerily quiet. To be honest, the only sense of security I had came from the CCTV cameras placed throughout.

It’s good to know that the only bus I have left to board is back to Prestwick to return to London.

I’m off to see Paul Strachan at the University of Strathclyde. Further updates to follow!

Aboard the Stansted Express.

I am sitting aboard a train in the Liverpool Street train station, bound for Stansted Airport. Unfortunately, I am accompanied by all of my baggage again, limiting my mobility. I do hope that Stansted has Internet access and public electricity; the old laptop needs a recharge.

London and I are starting to have a love-hate relationship on a grandiose scale. At the level of the individual, there are plenty of folks who will make you feel right at home, regardless of where you are from or what you believe. However, at large, London operates like an Orwellian dystopia. The Underground is flooded with automated announcements by a computerized British female voice, informing you of the train’s next destination. Large posters inform citizens about the improvements that are being made to the Underground to facilitate for more secure, faster, and robust travels. But through all of it, there is little sign of true compassion. London is not a community; rather, it is a system into which its citizens are so horribly integrated that they operate as mere cogs.

Fear-mongering is abound moreso than anywhere I’ve been in the United States. Signs warn citizens to be warned that they are being watched and will be prosecuted if a crime is committed. I witnessed a woman being accosted by the British Transport police and having her bag searched. Londoners, at least among those travelling aboard the Underground, have little or no sense of humor. I didn’t dare speak to any of them; it is almost as if there is an unwritten rule. I was tempted to break that rule, when I realized that the folks I would talk to may not take kindly to such behavior and might report it to the authorities, as they are instructed to over the loudspeakers several times per day.

As I travel out of central London, I am reminded that the United Kingdom isn’t completely close-circuited. What does Glasgow have to offer?

Deerhoof in Glasgow!

Deerhoof will be playing at ABC Glasgow this evening at 7:00. Unfortunately, I will probably be occupied with the conference banquet in Dundee and unable to make it. It may not be in my best interest, but I might leave the conference early to make it to the concert… There aren’t many opportunities like this one.

Not even the locals like Dundee…

What I see: The 78 Bar, Glasgow

I boarded the bus to Dundee with a smile on my face and eyes full of vibrant Scottish landscape. As the coach neared Dundee, I became excited that I was reaching the ultimate destination of my trip. Upon stepping off the bus, I sought the location of the University, to find out that many of the locals were less than friendly. It ended up that I walked miles uphill in heavy shoes and a gentleman’s blazer with an overloaded backpack in search of the buildings which housed the conference. Three inquiries and several curses later, I found myself at West Park at the University of Dundee, less than impressed. I ate my complimentary lunch, spoke with a few of the conference attendees, and sought my professor to discuss our presentation.

(Un)fortunately, I haven’t any photographs from Dundee. I must return tomorrow to finish the presentation, so I will attempt to snap some then.

When I returned to Glasgow, I attempted to go to the ABC to see Deerhoof, only to find that it was sold out. There were some Uni students outside hoping to catch some scalpers, and I had a short conversation with them about food and drink around the city. After they recommended me several delightful places to eat and drink, I promptly neglected to use their advice and got some second-rate fish and chips. Then I wandered the streets of Glasgow in search of a pub that wasn’t trendy as fuck, found myself at a loss, and returned back to the hostel to find a delightful dive down the street, the 78, where I am now.

Another lager barkeep; I’m sleepin’ alone tonight.

A drink at Stansted.

I got off the train and made my way to the check-in counter at Ryanair. They told me check-in for my flight hadn’t begun yet, so I decided to get a drink at the bar. I happened to meet a lovely girl from Kent, who bought me a Chardonnay. We talked politics, religion, dreams, and destinies. It’s amazing the conversations you’ll have if you just say hello. I told her about my idea to travel across the country in a motorhome, and I was met with fascination, as she was seeking to leave her current position as a police officer to move to Australia and seek a similar lifestyle.

Notting Hill Gate.

I’m sitting outside an Apostrophe cafe at Notting Hill Gate. Before I hopped the Tube, I met up with a couple of Singaporean graphic designers at St. Christopher’s:

They are attending an exhibition at Lower Thames this week. We spoke about our business in Europe and our aspirations for the future. I may meet up with them again if I stay at St. Christoper’s when I return to London.

I am noticing my dialect and accent going the way of the Englishmen, even only after a few days. I cannot believe it myself. Perhaps I was meant to be here.

I happened to take some photographs around Notting Hill:

It’s about 3 in the afternoon and I’ll need to be getting back to Borough shortly to pick up my luggage and board the Tube to Liverpool Street to catch the train to Stansted. There I will be flying into Glasgow where I have a hostel accommodation. I look forward to seeing Glasgow as it may be my home for the duration of my Ph.D program. I have a feeling it will be a late night and an early morning. Until then, cheers.

Shake-up at St. Christopher’s.

Blackfriars Bridge at sunset

Sunday morning. Londoners seem to adhere to blue laws of old: Hardly any shops are open Sunday morning. Luckily, Londoners love their coffee and tea and so I am able to blog.

Last night was an interesting course of events. I met up with some Americans and a New Zealander at the hostel and we had some bonding time over a few drinks at the pub. It was a good time, but I wish I could have met some locals. One Londoner stopped us on the street and asked us for directions. This was a good indicator of the sheer size of this city. He was an extremely friendly fellow and was infinitely amused at our use of the exclamation “Sweet!”

As soon as I was ready to turn in for the evening, things got interesting. The hostel I was staying at was split into two buildings on the same block of Borough High Street, St. Christopher’s Village and St. Christopher’s Inn. My first mistake was misreading my bed reservation as saying I was staying in Room 1 of the Village. I went upstairs and found myself locked out of the room. I then realized I was supposed to be at the Inn, and walked down the street to be accosted by two large fellows standing outside bouncing the hostel’s bar downstairs. I showed them my room key and they allowed me through. I went upstairs and slid my key card through the door of Room 1, to find myself locked out there as well. I sighed heavily, trudged down the stairs, down the street, and explained the problem to the receptionist. He slid my card through his magic machine and told me the key would work now. I huffed down the street yet again and collapsed into my bed. Twenty minutes later, a young British fellow entered the room and wondered what I was doing in his bed. I replied that I was unaware that the bed was taken. I sighed more heavily than before, slipped my shoes on, and walked down the street yet again. By now, I could tell the security guards outside were becoming mighty suspicious of my behavior. I explained the problem to reception and he punched some buttons on his computer. He looked up my name and told me I was actually supposed to be in Room 10 at the Inn. I suppose it was an honest mistake of the receptionist that booked me, but I was quite tired and thus, quite peeved. I walked back to the Inn and collapsed for the night.

I remember distinctly falling asleep to the sound of a pissed English fellow explaining his plan to punch some other fellow’s stomach in. I laughed inside and fell right asleep.

Today I might take a trip to Notting Hill before I have to board the train to Stansted Airport to catch my plane to Glasgow.

Welcome to the Four Stars Hotel at London.

Morning. I have awkaken with a stomach full of Greek cuisine and a rested body. The hotel room has a peculiar bathroom arrangement; there is a small, closet-sized door which leads to a self-contained, extremely space-efficient stall. The sink and mirror share the stall with the shower.

There’s supposedly a continental breakfast downstairs, so I am about to find my way to a cup of coffee. Then it will be a long day of booking hostels and (hopefully) seeing some of historic London. I cannot afford to pay 50 pounds for a room again, so I do hope I will be able to find suitable accommodations.