Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chit Chat: Dating

So we have some proposed subjects for chit chat. We'll try to address them all. But first up, Adrew "Spambot" Miller wants to talk about dating:1

"Dating" is a funny word. Its meaning seems to have shifted over time. These days, it often just means a pair is a romantic couple.2 So-and-so and so-and-so are dating. They may never actually go on a "date" per se.

But more traditionally, it asserts that a couple is actually going on dates. And what exactly is a date? The line is blurry. I might provisionally describe it as an arranged meeting between two people (a prospective or current couple) in a neutral place, e.g. a restaurant.3 But that's a little too rigid. Dinner, movie: unambiguously neutral territory; classic date material. Going to a party together? Maybe sort of, but it's not archetypal. Is it a date, or are they "just hanging out"? (In general, couples seem to be doing less formal dating and more "hanging out".) Dinner at one or the other person's home? That could, at one stage in a relationship, be considered a date. At a later stage of romantic entanglement, it's just plain old dinner.

I dunno. Times change. Words change. Behaviors change. Dating is complicated. That's what I've got to say.4

Thank you for the suggested topic, Adrew "Spambot" Miller.

1 I'll preface this by saying that I've been off the market a long time, so I can't claim any sort of expertise on the subject whatsoever.

2 Though typically the term describes a couple in the early stages of their relationship. I don't think I would describe a couple that's been together for five years as "dating".

3 During my years waiting tables, it was always fun to play "spot the first date". It wasn't hard. There's a distinctive combination of body language and conversation that sets a first date apart from other sorts of social engagements.

4 See? I can babble crapa about just about anything.
a Maybe I'll rename this blog "Babble Crap".b

b Entirely tangentially, I had a weird dream/low-grade nightmare last night that Blogger/Blogspot automatically restyled this blog with some sort of hideous over-the top style with icky fonts and a gross hyper-graphic background image; and I spent a long time trying to change it back, and never succeeded. Yikes.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Chit Chat

So now that the London tales are over, we'll have to find something else to chit chat about. But what? Horses? Monkeys? Aardvarks? Skyscrapers? Dappled light? Robots? Dog food? Wishbones? Primary numbers? String concatenation? Windshield wipers? The etymology of the phrase "chit chat"? Mangoes? Worming sheep? How weird honey bees are? Dwarf stars?

Or anything else. I'm open to suggestions. Chit chat. Chit chat. Chit chat.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

London: Homeward Bound (Planes, Trains, and Automobiles)1

Oh yeah, where we again? London. Well, every story needs its denouement,2 and ours is the return home. Let's wrap this sucker up.

Up and out: So we got up and did all the last minute flitting and tidying and packing, and down the stairs and out the door;3 onto the bus, the massive heap of luggage piled in the area designated for strollers, earnest hopes that some poor lady with a stroller wouldn't hop on; the tube to Victoria station, the seemingly endless tube to Heathrow, crammed in, again with our heap of luggage, along with everyone else going to Heathrow and their own respective heaps of luggage; myself standing in the middle of our heap, having to skinny-up every time the doors opened and others entered; our neighbors, a pair of stewardesses commuting to work (who later turned out to be our attendants on our plane); and finally, arrival at the airport.

Heathrow: We dropped off the wifi thingamabob; traded in our Oyster Cards (the little public transports scanning doo-dads), a bureaucratic process seemingly designed to make you give up on trying to get your money back; exchanged money; went through security; and made a crisp little groove to the gate (we didn't have oodles of time to spare).

Up, up, and away: The plane ride home simply can't be as cool as the plane ride there. And it was daylight the whole time, so there was none of the initial flight's ambient grooviness. (Though we still got fed, which still excited June.) The little back-of-seat plane-on-the-map wasn't nearly as interesting this time. I watched Goodfellas and Moneyball. And we were state-side.

Dulles: Lots of long walks down lengthy corridors, until we finally had to part with my mom, our little London cadre sadly breaking up; and on we went, again through security (which made us extra-secure since we'd already been securitized once and had never left a secure area); customs, which when we witnessed the lengthy line, convinced us we would miss our connection (we didn't have a lengthy layover); but the giant queue as the (England-landers say), zigged and zagged at a reasonable clip (we repeatedly crossed paths with this hilarious little baby who seemed mesmerized by the girls); the customs dude gave our passports a cursory glance and waved us through; we also did some sort of silliness with our luggage where we retrieved it somewhere along the way and then dropped it back off again;4 and with little time to spare, we did indeed make our connection.

The last leg: After becoming sophisticated worldly jet-setters, as we now are, domestic flights are... well... just so domestic. Really though, I remember essentially nothing about this flight.

And...: Home! A taxi ride (the "Automobiles" part of this post's title), etc., and in our front door. I've said it before, but no matter where we go — even to far yonder London — I'm always happy to come home: the raggedy streets, the funky heat (I sat out in the dark back yard for a while once we were settled in), our own beloved New Orleanians. Ahh.

Epilogue:5

Getting back into the daily grind after a far away adventure is hard. Jet-lag makes it harder. Back at work, I had to warm up with very basic tasks,6 waiting for my brain, which was still somewhere over the Atlantic, to catch up with me. But eventually we got back in the groove, graced with great memories which we'll never forget.

(And of course, I got to have my fun, reliving the whole thing via this bloggy-machine. 'Twas nice. Journey over. Thanks for reading. Catchya on the flip side.)

1 The trip took a week. It's recounting has taken how long? Silly Slimbo...

2 That's one of those big English class words. I hope I'm using it right.a
a And I suppose not every story needs its denouement. This is the post-modern era, right? And we can adopt any experimental narrative structure we want. But for this one I'm going to stick with classic linear. Denouement it is.
3 I say "out the door" like it was a casual thing. It was actually excruciating. Getting the girls — in their full tween-dom — out of the house on regular day is a laborious process, a myriad of last minute (last many minutes) tweaks to attirea and whatnot, during which I'm usually standing at the bottom of the stairs, tapping my foot and trying to find a Zen place (though often uttering rather un-Zen hollers of, "What are you doing?"). Getting out the door for an overseas flight was the same thing, multiplied manyfold.
a As an adherent of the wear-a-personal-unchanging-uniform-every-single-day philosophy, I find last minute attire tweaks entirely alien.
4 I have no doubt that all these procedural shenanigans serve their purpose... but still, it was all kind of silly.

5 Ooh! A denouement and an epilogue. Aren't we fancy?

6 Though I'm a software nerd, and coding, of its nature, is complex. There were definitely some initial moments (minutes... hours...) of staring at the screen, with my brain in another time-zone, thinking, "What the hell does all this gobbledygook mean again?"

Sunday, July 06, 2014

London: Day 6, Friday1


On the train: the girls play their weird made-up Lifesavers game.



Louise watches the countryside pass by.



Old downtown Lewes



The girls, atop Lewes castle, giving big ridiculous smiles to whoever is "really" taking the picture. (What is June doing?) Note the chalk cliffs in the distance.



Mom and I, in front of our old house. It's actually three row houses stuck together. We were the one in the middle. Somebody has done some considerable gardening since we were there, making it look decidedly quainter.



Onto the Downs. ("SHEEP in this field. Please keep DOGS under _______ CONTROL." What's the missing word? "STRICT"? Sounds about right. Polite yet disciplined.)



The wind blows Louise's hair. June assaults the rest of her.



The girls tiptoe towards the sheep.



Sarah gazes into the distance.



Mom, the sheep farmer, attempting to make the acquaintance of these two. The sheep really wanted nothing to do with us.


Our last day. It was finally, for the first time since our first day, pleasant rainless weather. We had one key item left on our trip's checklist: visiting the little town of Lewes, where my parents and I lived for a year when I was eight.2 It's about an our south of London, outside the hustle and bustle of the city, a little medieval town nestled in the South Downs, eight miles from the English Channel. (From the highest hills, one can see the sea.)

The public transport in London had proved wonderfully proficient. The train system beyond the city (in our brief experience) was a hot mess. We were to depart from Victoria Station. After a long wait in line, we purchased our tickets. It was subsequently revealed that the ticket guy had screwed up and substantially overcharged us. We wandered confusedly amongst the platforms until we found the right train and scrambled aboard. Several minutes into the journey, it was announced that at one of the junctures, the train would be splitting in two, with several of the cars going to Lewes and the rest to some other town. We had no idea what car we were in. Finally some kindly gent checked our tickets, assured us that we were in the right car, and we would indeed find our way to our destination.

Once we settled in, the journey through the countryside was charming and relaxing. The girls invented some weird game with Lifesavers, which kept them busy. About an hour outside of London, the marvelous green Downs rose before up in a steep escarpment. And then, a few minutes later, we arrived in the little town.

We strolled down the main street, lined with medieval buildings, shops, a castle further up the hill. I'd done research and found a good restaurant. We stopped for lunch (our one true "upscale" meal in England). Good stuff. (June ordered "posh fish and chips," a fancy modernistic interpretation of our regular culinary staple. Afterwards, we went to the castle. I remembered it well from my youth, not the grandest castle, but damn cool regardless, teeny spiral staircases to the top of the towers, the archers' slits, spectacular views from the top of the Downs stretching to the horizon.

And then it was time for the curious bit of the trip: visit our old flat where we'd lived. It was at the edge of town, entirely off the beaten tourist path, and getting there and back would be logistically complex. Eventually we found a kind cabbie3 who agreed to take our party up there and return an hour later to fetch us. Seeing the old house, three-plus decades later, was semi-surreal: the funky little post-war flat where I'd spent a year of my youth. (If any neighbors were watching, I'm sure we made a strange sight, standing outside of a nondescript home, posing and snapping pictures.) The neighborhood itself was unremarkable, but its one virtue was that it abutted directly upon the Downs themselves.4 After our brief stop in front of the old home, we wandered out into the great beyond.

The Downs are unique: profoundly green, nearly treeless, they seem to roll on and on forever. We hopped a fence that hadn't existed when I was young. Sheep grazed in the communal fields. We stopped at an ancient drinking hole, then roamed further, following an ancient trail. (There was a tremendous amount of sheep poop, scattered like land mines, making the roaming a careful business.) After the dense business of London, it was a gratifying lovely respite. We dallied a while. And then we retraced our (poo-laden) path back to the spot where our cabbie was to pick us up. He was briefly delayed. We were briefly concerned that we'd been stranded at the edge of nowheres-ville. But he did indeed show up, apologized, and took us back to the center of town.

We'd hoped to grab a late afternoon tea at the dainty little shop on the main street, but alas, they'd just closed. Instead, we grabbed coffee down the street (at the chain cafe called Cafe Nero, which used a squarish angular font for its signs, making it look like its name was Cafe Nerd).

And then it was time to catch the train back. Back through the countryside. Back into the city. Back to the flat. And the packing for our regrettable departure.

And as always, sleep.

1 I'm not sure why it took me so long to post about this last day. I didn't want the trip to end. Maybe I didn't want its narration to end either.

2 I will go ahead and say it: my youthful year in England was less than idyllic. My memories consist primarily of steady rain and regular fisticuffs with the xenophobic future soccer hooligans who populated my school.a
a This not to say there weren't also many wonderful, eye-opening experiences. (I saw a lot of awesome castles and other cool stuff.) But the daily routine wasn't so great.
3 The cabbie sort of fascinated me, just so archetypally what he was, a certain sort of epitome of a certain sort of working class Englishman: polite, diligent, and with an accent unlike any other.

4 This was another of the upsides of my year in England. Our house was literally at the very edge of town. I could walk the length of our long backyard, climb through the overgrown back hedge, and in an almost Narnia-esque transformation, find myself standing at the edge of miles and miles of glorious green rolling hills.