Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What Does July Mean?

TOLD YOU I WOULD UPDATE QUICKLY! What can I say? A lot happened this weekend. :)

Again, it's always good to start a new blog post, though I never know how to begin it... I find that's a typical problem with myself and writing. I have no idea where to start, and once I do actually start, I can't seem to stop myself once I get going... awkward. Per usual, I guess, I'm going to start off by reposting my Spotify playlist, which is still expanding day after day. This thing is going to be monstrous by the time that I'm through with it, haha! I also just realized that there are a few tracks on the playlist itself that don't show up for anyone other than myself, because the tracks come directly from my own iTunes library. So, later on I think I'm going to post a list of the entire playlist, just because there are some epic tracks on there that need to be shared with the rest of the world, including a song or two from my roommate - Julie's - band, The Fake Carls (and you should download their EP for free off of their bandcamp account. Because you have no excuse, it's free damn music).

Also, as a heads up... not so many pictures in this one. It's more wordy than anything. So, be prepared for a word vomit.

In the meantime, enjoy the Spotify playlist... again, I guess. IDK, I'm always down for new music, but maybe that's just me.

So, my last blog post left off right before the Fourth of July, which was four days ago (as I'm writing this post). Normally, I'm struggling to write down all of the things that I did the day before, but right now it seems like I'm pretty far behind in the going on's, so I've gotta get a move on and start recounting and remembering all of the crazy details of that night and this past weekend.

American Independence... in England

So, the Fourth of July rolled around this year, as it does during every day of the year (which is a shock for some people, I know). This year was automatically going to be different than past holidays, in that I'm literally nowhere near any immediate family - yes, of course, I have my relative in Northern Ireland, but that's... you know... really far north. And kind of on a different island. So, also taking into consideration the fact that I had work on American Independence Day, that wasn't going to happen. Every Fourth is usually spent at home with my family - with a nice barbecue, some being lazy, maybe some crap television, before we all wander outside in the scorching heat of a Colorado evening (literally and figuratively - for some reason, Colorado likes to catch on fire). The end of this wonderful holiday usually culminates in some crazy fireworks, which are always exciting (though, again, fireworks tend to catch things on fire... so that's been very up in the air these past few years, but damn it's the principle of the thing). It was weird not being with my family this year, and for the first time during this entire trip... I actually got really homesick. Like, really homesick.

The other awkward part about American Independence was the fact that... well, I'm not in America. I'm kind of spending the Fourth of July in the country that... we declared independence from. And while I'd like to say that the British don't really give a damn about American Independence (to be fair, a lot of other countries declared independence from them, too... lol...), I'm in an office surrounded by British people (and a Canadian as of last week), and I really didn't know how to go about this entire "let's celebration liberation from taxation without representation" thing.

So, I tried to think of some... options to celebrate American Independence in England, without being offensive. And I'm pretty sure that I hit the mark.

  1. Buy a box of tea, chuck it into the Thames as a group of British people walk by, shout "'MERICA" and run away.
  2. Wear red white and blue for the day and talk in a loud, obnoxious Texan accent.
  3. Talk loudly about 2nd Amendment rights to no one in particular.
  4. Whenever a hoard of people get off of the Tube in the Underground, shout "The Redcoats are here! THE REDCOATS ARE HERE!" and run away.
  5. Don't drink tea all day, and flip your cup upside down in solidarity. Demand "real coffee" at every cafe you go to and get offended when they only have Insta-Coffee (because that's all that they will have, most likely).
  6. Play a playlist of American-inspired songs (including "My Country Tis of Thee," which is a bastardized version of the British national anthem, in case you didn't know) in the office nonstop until someone strangles you.
  7. Find some illegal firecrackers and throw them into the street randomly, before shouting "'MERICA" and running away before a Bobby catches you.
    1. When you get arrested, say "Sorry, I don't obey your Queendom anymore, take it up with George Washington."
    2. Shout "'MERICA," break free and run away into the sunset.
See? Totally not offensive in any way, shape or form.

... okay, in all honesty, I had a really uneventful Fourth of July day. I woke up and went to work, per usual (some friends of mine got work off at this point in time, so I was constantly tormented with their Facebook messages about how much fun they were having day drinking). And I drank about four cups of tea (English Breakfast, just the way that Her Majesty likes it). I did a lot of work, did some running to and fro from the Post Office. None of my coworkers even mentioned the Fourth of July, which was pretty random, but also pretty nice because, again, I'm not sure how British people actually feel about it...? (My boss did call me a Yank at one point, but it was all in good humour, so no bad feelings there - you'll find that I'm pretty chill when it comes to name calling of that nature. :) Go ahead, call me a paddy, I'll probably laugh with you!). And whenever it was brought up in random conversations with random Brits on the street during my running adventures, It was always in the following format of conversation:

"Are you from the States?"
"Yeah, Colorado."
"Ah... it's your Independence Day today isn't it?"
"Um... yeah, yeah it is."
"Ah... well..."
"... yeah..."

The end of the work day was jam pack filled with "running" up the yin yang. I had to go to a costume shop called "Angel's" near Shaftesbury Avenue and pick up three chicken costumes before running over to two other shoppes and trying to buy a flying seagull and three golden envelopes (don't ask...). At this point, the place with the flying seagull was closed, so that was immediately an "oh, shit" kind of revelation, seeing as the shoot that this was needed for was... tomorrow... Long story short, the end of the work day ended stressfully, with plans to wake up at 7:00am the next morning to hitch a train down to Shepperton (an hour train ride away) to get said "flying seagull" to set before it was needed. Already, my Fourth of July was not looking up too much.

My friends are wonderful people.
Thank God for my friends! I got back to my flat and was greeted with a few bottles of wine, and some nice ciders that I'd been hoarding up ever since I came over here (they're cheaper to buy from the shops than to get from a pub directly - pre-gaming is always cheaper, my friends). I tested out some nice British cider and had some nice Italian wine, before dressing up in my best American attire (lots of denim and your red-white and blue), before heading out to this awesome Tiki bar-club thing with all of the other Dreamers! A fellow Dreamer, Ira, was recommended this place by someone in town, and got at least 90 wristbands for all of us to go and enjoy a great night of awesome frivolities!

Ira was the hero of the day - this place was rad!

We got there, and there was an American flag above the entrance to this bar-club place. You walk in, and you automatically get a free cocktail of your choice. There are red white and blue balloons everywhere, everyone is wearing American flag shirts and a few people even have an American flag on as a cape! It was probably one of the coolest things that I'd ever seen. Not only that, but it was half-off drinks for the rest of the night. But I didn't even need to buy drinks - this Italian guy introduced himself to me and bought me drinks all night long, which was awkward, but also pretty hilarious.

Apparently, being American is acceptable
in London, England! :)
Most of the night was spent trying to hide from said Italian guy, and spending the night running around with my friends and meeting other awesome Dreamers! When ten o'clock ran around, our half-off-of-drinks deal was gone, so we decided to fly the coop and find another place to get smackered - maybe the SportsBar? I got separated from my original group of friends, but stuck around with a bunch of other Dreamers as we traversed the depths of the London Underground. By this point, however, I remember that - le gasp! - I had work the next day. With a heavy heart, I parted from my fellow Dreamers at Earl's Court Tube station and grabbed the Piccadilly Line back to Nido...

...and that's when I met a bunch of awesome American students from Michigan State University! They were so nice and so cool - most of them were Business or Political Science students, here on a five-week program to take a few classes here and there. We all ended up going to McDonald's together to satisfy our drunk-munchies cravings (though I just got myself a fruit smoothie... I know, I'm lame), and we sat at this McDonald's across from King's Cross for at least two hours, just talking. It was so nice!

By that point, we all realized that it was getting pretty late and, once again, I was reminded of the fact that I had work (hissss) in the morning. So, I walked with these lovely peeps from Michigan back to their flat... and then realized that it was 1am in London, and I had no idea where I was.

Luckily, their flat isn't far from mine, so I stuck to lit streets and eventually wandered back to Pentonville Road, and by that point I had seen the tall, awkward glass structure of our building and knew exactly where I was. I took a quick shower, and was asleep before I even hit the hay!

Needless to say... it was another random, awesome adventure in London. I met some cool random people from Michigan, got free drinks all night and went on a wild Tube adventure, all without offending any British people and still having a good time as an American! :) Something that under-toned the entire evening, however, was... well, my homesickness. I had never been so homesick during this trip, I love London too much. But on my country's birthday, all I wanted was to be home with some barbecue and my family as we watched the fireworks from my backyard. It was strange, but it definitely... reinforced in me my... self of American-ness, something that I felt like I had been disregarding during my entire trip here (as I was determined to immerse myself fully into British culture if it was the last thing that I did). It was strange, but I felt that it was much needed.

<3 I love this little, stormy island country - and I love Brits (they're our closest allies, after all, and practically our "mother country," if you want to call it that) - but I'm still an American. It's not bad or good, it's just natural - it's just who I am, and I refuse to be ashamed of it. I "don't care - I love it!" and will continue to celebrate that fact, even if I'm an ocean away from home.

God bless, my fellow Yanks.

And fuck yeah, 'merica.

Weekend Filming Madness

As you can imagine, waking up the next morning for work was not the easiest experience that I had to go through... in fact, it sucked. Like, it really sucked. I wasn't hungover, I was just exhausted - this entire week, I maybe snagged... 3 of 4 hours of sleep a night? I literally just couldn't sleep all week. That, added onto the fact that I'd just had an extremely enjoyable American holiday evening... well, I was not happy to have to wake up. But that's why I'm here in London, so I dragged myself up, got myself dressed, and trudged on over to the bus stop to go and pick up this damned flying seagull that had been giving Irresistible so much grief.

The trip down to Halliford Studios in Shepperton was long, but much needed. It was absolutely wonderful to get to go and get out of the city for just a few hours. I took the Victoria Line down to the Vauxhall Overground Train Station before getting myself onto a south-bound train to the farthest point on the line. Literally, I sat on the train until it stopped running and the conductor said "get off. Now, please." It was... weird. I saw so many trees and green things, and I even saw horses. I even saw horses! There was livestock! I love London, again, don't get me wrong... but I was raised in Colorado, and going so long without green was literally hurting my soul a little bit. So, getting to see some of Mother Nature's goodness was much appreciated. :)

Fun stuff on set for the Warburton's digital ad!
I got to set, and got to spend a few hours watching and learning and even helping out a little bit on the set of the Warburton's digital ad that Irresistible is currently working on. It was good fun - I can't tell you too much about it, but rest assured, it's going to be really fun and hilarious when it hits the Warburton's website and their Youtube page! :)

After that, I had to wait around for another hour for another train to come around to take me back home... and when I finally made it back to Shoreditch (East London), it was about 4 o'clock - only two hours left of work. And I had gotten on a train headed to Shepperton at 10am! Right when I got there, I was sent on another wild, running adventure to a hardware store. And by the time that work was over, I was literally exhausted.

To be completely frank... I'm not quite sure what I did that Friday evening. I probably hung out with a few friends, didn't do anything crazy. I definitely drank at least two cups of tea. But I was so tired that I was coasting through the evening in an exhausted haze - and I had to head down to another outlying borough of London early next morning for another exciting day of filming!

The next morning, I was so tired that I didn't even have the energy to make myself a cuppa. I rolled out of bed and was out the door by 7:15am, and was on an overground train from Brixton down to Beckenham by 7:45am. I got down to set (a barber's shop) by 8:50 (ten minutes before call time - WINNING), and got myself a good, hearty English breakfast before the long day of filming began!

In case you're wondering... this is what I've come to qualify as a good English breakfast:
  • A nice, hot cuppa.
  • Maybe some Digestive Biscuits (they're not laxatives - I know the name is misleading).
  • A Breakfast Sandwich thing, which includes the following...
    • Two slices of white bread - sliced straight off of a loaf. Yes, a loaf. Like, an Italian loaf of bread, only British. White. 
    • Smother those two pieces of bread in butter. Lots of butter.
    • Get some really weird, large bacon pieces, and then cook them 'til they're nice and nasty and greasy.
    • Make some eggs. Cover them in salt and pepper.
    • Make a sandwich - and then put ketchup all over it.
    • Eat it. Eat all of it.
... and people think that America has horrible eating habits. But, who am I to complain - it was a free breakfast, and I'm going to take free food when I get it, even if it's against my dietary regulations that I've now set for myself (and I'm failing miserably at - dammit, London, y u so unhealthy and so delicious at the same time?!).

A little sneak peek on the set of "Mike"...
Being a "runner" (British lingo for a P.A., or Production Assistant) was... great fun. I loved it so much. I have to give props to the set of Dear Eleanor, once more, for giving me the tools to be successful on this set. I had to deal with crowds (which was more painful here, seeing as British people get very annoyed very easily when their daily routine is interrupted by a bunch of "bloody fucking comedians," as one lovely old gentleman was kind enough to interject), and pass out water to the crew, and take lunch orders, and guard equipment, and offer up my jumper (hoodie) for a cushion for one of the actors... but, overall it was great fun. Again, I can't give away too much about this shoot, but I can tell you that it's a short, narrative film based off of an award-winning script... and it will premiere at the U.K. Film Festival. Look out for "Mike," by Irresistible Films, coming your way sometime in 2013!

I loved being on set, and I met a bunch of cool peeps (shout out to Holly, Allen and Sebastiano) but I had to leave early - and for a very good reason...

Boat Cruise on the Thames with DreamCareers!

DreamCareers, again... rocks. I asked to leave set early so that I could go down to Westminster Pier and spend a fantastic evening on a boat cruise with my fellow Dreamers on the Thames River, right in the heart of London. It's a black-tie, classy attire kind of event, so I was pretty stoked. But I had a few things that I needed to sort out first:
  1. I'm nowhere near Westminster Pier. I'm, once again, in the suburbs. With no WiFi.
  2. I'm currently drenched in sweat, sunburnt, exhausted, wearing sneakers, jeans and a T-shirt, and definitely don't have time to go and shower and look presentable.
  3. How the hell do I get back?
It was literally a wild adventure trying to get to the pier on time. I took the train back to the Victoria overground station, and then tried to leap onto the Victoria Tube Line to try to get to Westminster on time - but for some reason, London thought it was a great freakin' idea to shut down the Victoria Station Tube entrance right when I got there. So, I literally sprinted all the way from the Victoria Station line all the way down to the Westminster Tube stop, right by Big Ben. And then I realized the following:
  1. Oh my God, Westminster Pier is on both side of the Thames. What side am I supposed to be on?
  2. I just tried to call Stefan to figure out what the hell was going on... and The Brick literally just ran out of minutes.
  3. Where the hell is everyone?
  4. What the hell is this boat's name?!
Thank God I got an earlier train back than anticipated, 'cause I sprinted around Westminster Pier for a good ten minutes before finally stumbling upon a DreamCareers staff member (thank you Sam!), out of sheer luck. So, thankfully, the boat cruise was a go!

See that girl in the hoodie on the far left?
With the messenger bag? Yup. Me.
Best dressed.
Although I was sweaty, and sunburnt, and wearing sneakers and an Oxford University hoodie, standing amongst all of my put together, gorgeous, dressed-up Dreamers (all the guys were wearing suits, and the girls heels and dresses... I felt like the worst dressed at the Academy Awards)... it was a night to remember. We started off right by Big Ben, and ended up right near the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge, and literally spent a good four hours on the Thames, eating great food, dancing to great music (nothing Frank Sinatra-ey, unfortunately - but they played "I'm on a Boat" and "My Heart Will Go On" so, really, who I am to complain?), and meeting great people. Some awkward things happened here and there, but overall... an incredible evening. I met a lot of new people, too, and got to have some incredible conversations with awesome peeps from around the nation - and the world (shout out to Mitchell, Sasha, Connor and Ashley, who I got to talk to and get to know better during this little adventure). Steak, Magner's Irish Cider (yummm), awesome people, a boat, the Thames... simply awesome. No words can describe that experience with justice.

Happy days on the Thames! :) What an incredible time!
By this point, my phone had died, so I wasn't able to take many pictures - but, to be completely honest, I probably wouldn't have taken many at any rate, I was having much too fun! And sometimes, pictures just don't do any experience justice. Sometimes, the memories that you make when you're not looking through at the screen of your iPhone camera application are the most important moments that you can take away from an experience like that. :)

The evening ended at 23:00 (11pm), and we all wanted to go to the pub to continue the evening... but by that point, I'd completely sobered up (I sober up quickly... thanks, Irish blood), and the fact that I'd slept little to nothing over the last week had finally caught up to me and hit me like a freight train. I headed back to Nido and sat down with Lizzie, Alison, Morgan and Scott to talk and gossip...

... and I promptly fell asleep, right there on the couch. God bless Scott, he helped tired-ol' me back to my bedroom, where I promptly passed out for a good... ten or eleven hours.

The boat cruise and filming were both good craic, but I was content to fall asleep and stay asleep for a good while. It had been a long week of adventures here in London, and after weeks of nonstop "go go go" attitude, I was finally ready for a good rest!

Didn't take too many pictures, again - damn phone died - but I was having too much fun anyway, so enjoy the few pictures that I did actually take.

"Propaganda" Exhibit and Titanic Staircase

Okay, so even though I woke up still tired from an awesome day of Thames frivolities... I have a bit of a problem, where I don't like to stay still for long. I'm either a incredibly successful couch potato, or I'm an incredibly successful, busy maniac who can't do nothing for long periods of time. So, I woke up, had some (decent) Mexican food with my friends... and then I got antsy. Like, really antsy. And everyone just kind of wanted to hang out and relax after a crazy evening (and it was crazy for most people - I was just lame and exhausted and sunburnt. I think I was the first person to go to bed, honestly)... but I didn't. If I stayed in Nido all day I would literally start ripping my hair out. So, I thought that I'd go on an adventure! But no adventure is complete without a companion (my Dr. Who friends know what I'm talking about... and I do, too, and I don't even watch Dr. Who), so Danielle (remember Danielle from Bath) and I went on an epic adventure to the British Library and the Titanic Staircase at the Russell Hotel!

... okay, so we wanted to go to the British Museum, and I thought that I knew where it was... but I didn't, apparently. At any rate, we got to go and get some Starbucks (she did - I got myself water - it was damn hot), I got some more £ from the ATM inside of King's Cross, and we headed off on an awesome (very hot) adventure. We ended up not knowing where the hell we were, so we just ended up walking inside of the British Library, which is very close nearby. What was so cool about that, though, was the fact that there was this awesome exhibit going on about Propaganda in Modern Society - and it was only £5 for students! Well, I just couldn't say no to something like that...

Lady Liberty? Or...?
The exhibit was literally... so awesome. I stopped at every single plaque and read everything, and what was so awesome was that Danielle did the same! Normally, I'm the one that takes forever at museums, because I want to absorb everything that I'm seeing, so I end up pissing everybody off because I take so long... but Danielle was right along with me, making comments and gawking in awe at portraits of Napoleon and film reels. Besides that, though... the exhibit was very eyeopening. Practically everything that we saw in there had some kind of coded message behind it, something that we didn't realize we were being "taught," so to speak. Even a video from the 50s explaining what propaganda is - was propaganda! This is where my film criticism courses finally came in handy... the film was edited, obviously, in a way that made it apparent that you were watching a film, if that makes any sense. You'd be watching Actor A and Actor B talking about the different methods of propaganda, and then the next take would have them literally in reverse positions from where they were before. The film that was teaching you what propaganda was was propaganda because what you were seeing wasn't real - it was film. It's been edited, refined, made into something that it isn't through careful, creative selection... it was awesome. :D

... that's right... you heard me...
The rest of the exhibit was incredibly fascinating, too! We learned about propaganda methods employed in the Soviet Union, in the United States, in Great Britain, in the People's Republic of China... in India, in the Middle East, in Nazi Germany, throughout the world during many different world-wide conflicts (including the First and Second World Wars). We saw an actual poster using during WWII (an actual Uncle Same poster - not a recreation, but the actual thing), got to listen to dialogue from various speeches throughout history (including one of Hitler's speeches, a video about how to "find the hidden Jew" [that was literally disgusting to watch, they treated Jews like they were some kind of wild animal in hiding ready to attack you at any minute], and even the George W. Bush speech when he "informed" the American people about Iraq's "nuclear capabilities"), and got to learn a lot about how propaganda affected the world today. It was a simply incredible exhibit, and I learned so much just by going to get and see it, if only for an hour and a half. I learned so much, especially in that everything - everything - is propaganda.

An original!
Including this blog, apparently.

Yes. I meant everything.


French anti-Nazi vandalism.
... okay, not really (at least I hope not), but the point is that everything that you witness in life in regards to public relations, media, books, film, advertising, word of mouth, technology - anything having to do with connecting with other people can be used as propaganda. It was... enlightening and terrifying.

Pretty much, we're all tools for propaganda - we are cogs in the machine.

Yeah, I felt that way too.

Well, anyway, after we left the exhibit, we wanted to check out the immense British Library... but it was Sunday, and everything in England just kind of shuts down on Sundays, because people don't give a damn about making that extra £10 when they can just go home / to the pub and have a pint with their family and friends. Again... the Brits have got this whole "relax" thing figured out, without overlooking the "work" aspect of life. Love it. So, seeing as everything was closing down, we tried to think of more things to do that would shorten my "Must See in London" list.

... and then it hit us - the Titanic staircase at the Russell Hotel!

We headed on over to said hotel, and ended up... well, kind of "breaking in," so to speak. Normally, you'd think that running around a hotel randomly when you're not actually staying in the hotel is kind of... well, wrong. Illegal. But we kind of just... I don't know... walked in? And walked up the stairs? Not the Titanic ones, of course, but stairs that we thought would lead to the Titanic staircase?

And there we were. Illegally. In a hotel. I'm pretty sure that the CCTVs picked up on us (they're freaking everywhere), but if they do, I doubt we'd get in trouble, because all that the Bobbies would see would be about an hour of footage of Danielle and I running up and down this main staircase looking completely lost and freaked out while we tried to find this damn replica... which we never freakin' found. We finally just abandoned our attempts to find the staircase, but swore to come back after some more research...

Said research ended up being a complete waste of time, because we were actually on the staircase for the entire time that we were there... and it's not a replica at all. Granted, it's a freakin' gorgeous piece of architecture, but it's not the wooden staircase replica from Titanic! It's just... inspired by it. It was so weird... but, at any rate, it was a fun adventure, trying to avoid the Bobbies inside of the (beautiful) Russell Hotel. :) Good craic, and something that I won't forget!

Afterwards, Danielle and I wandered about and visited a few more areas around the Hotel, namely the Ghandi Park right across the street (which was lovely and peaceful). We just walked around and found some cool places here and there, got lost, and had to find our way back using landmarks - which is always good fun. :) It was a wonderful evening with an awesome Dreamer friend - and we even found a really cool park full of dead people!

... okay, I should explain.

It's so weird how people in Europe handle death, as opposed to America. For instance, in America, graveyards are normally very quiet, very solemn... and very sad. Very, very sad. In Londonderry, it was a similar feeling, but that was only because of the tension between the two sides of the cemetery. I mean, look at Aunt Sylvia, making me take pictures standing next to my grandmother's grave (again, I was not kosher with that at all - it felt so disrespectful). Likewise in Warsaw, Poland - people just walked up to graves and talked to them, like they were live people. It was practically a social gathering place. And England seems to be no different (don't take my word for it and don't be offended, my loverly British friends... it's just an observation).

There is this place called St. George's Gardens, right near our flat (in the borough of Bloomsbury), and it's a park where people drink, sunbathe, and play with their children and dogs...

... and it's a graveyard.

In fact, it's the first graveyard in London built away from a church. There are tombstones everywhere, and people are just... you know. Drinking wine leaning up against some dude's grave. Or jumping on top of the grave and then leaping off to scare your little sister. A dog peed on one of the graves. It just peed on it. It was like... what? I'm extremely uncomfortable with death - even thinking about death too much or contemplating it on a large scale makes me physically ill - and people in Europe just... treat it naturally. I don't know, it was just... weird.

At any rate, it was a cool-ass park, and I want to go back there and hang out, and try not to feel so awkward leaning on some dead guy's final resting place. I'm determined. ;D The only regret that I have from our wonderful adventures throughout London that wretchedly hot afternoon was the fact that we didn't stop in a pub to see Murray win Wimbledon. It would've been pretty awesome to be surrounded by a bunch of cheering, drunk Brits when they finally reclaimed the Wimbledon title after so many years of having to come away empty handed... but what can I say? You can't have everything in life!
Check out these random pictures from Danielle and I's wanderings around London this past Sunday!

What Does July Mean?

I'm just beginning to realize that my adventures here in my dream city, London, are half way over... I'm halfway through with my internship, and I only have four guaranteed weeks left in this incredible city (the fifth is still up the air, right now... though I have hopes and plans that I hope come to fruition soon...). I guess that I'm beginning to realize that... holy shit. It's July. And July, for me - at this very moment in time - means the beginning of the end of this incredible journey that I've been honored and blessed to have been able to take. Not many people get to spend an entire summer in an incredible city like this, experiencing a completely different culture while also gaining job experience and learning valuable life lessons. And not many people get to spend it with so many incredible folks. Not many people have the support net that I have back home - my Mom, my Dad, my brother and sister (shout out to you guys), and my friends - all of whom have done nothing but support and encourage my crazy dreams to get involved in this beautiful industry that we like to call entertainment.

But, I'm beginning to realize that, while this blog is extremely exciting to write... it can also be incredibly selfish. I mean, look at me - just writing about myself, and all of the cool shit that I get to do in this incredible part of the world. "Oh, look at me, I got to go on a boat cruise on the Thames today, oh and I'm also getting to go to Paris this weekend! Wow! What an awesome life I have!" Yeah, okay, this is meant for me to be able to write everything down... to write everything and put it somewhere on the internet so that, one day in the future, I can go back and go, "... wow. I had it good. That was fucking awesome." But that's what July means to me. July means the beginning of the end... but also the continuance of something incredible that I've been blessed to be a part of.

But July doesn't mean the same thing for London.

It's hard to explain, but as we were leaving the Propaganda Exhibit at the British Library, Danielle and I felt different. At first, I think that we both put it off as something having to do with all of the information that we had just absorbed - it was a bit overwhelming. A lot of what we were learning about had to do with how propaganda can be used as a fear mechanism - how you can't trust anyone or anything, because there are forces out there trying to manipulate and control and kill you. And learning that, in a way, was propaganda in it of itself. That feeling wouldn't leave for some reason, and it only got worse as we talked about everything that we had just learned.

And as we headed over the the Russell Hotel, something shifted in the air. Danielle said that she got extremely sad suddenly, while I felt more... uncomfortable. Apprehensive, as if something bad as going to happen. And then we saw flowers on the side of the road, and when we went over to look, I saw that they were all arranged around a plague, attached to a metal fence. It was a plaque commemorating the people who died at this very spot on a Route 30 bus on July 7th, 2005, during a Taliban organized terrorist attack on the city of London.

And then Danielle looked at me with this... unfathomable expression on her face and said, "Katie... today is July 7th."

July is not a month that we Americans take very seriously. It's probably one of the months that we look forward to - barbecues, fireworks, maybe getting drunk at a random Tiki bar and getting free drinks from some skeezy Italian. Hanging out with friends. Spending time with family. Celebrating the freedom that we fought so very hard to achieve as a sovereign nation. No... September is the month that we seem to dread. When that day comes around, we all kind of sit in silence and go, "...wow... it was [insert number] years ago." The media shows nothing but footage of the event itself. Newspapers dedicate their front page to commemorate the 3,000 who died. Memorial services are held nationwide. We cry. We mourn. We "try to move on," when really all that we do is make ourselves relive every horrible moment of that fateful day in the hope that - somehow - by doing that, we'll feel better. I even show my solidarity by changing my profile picture to the photo of my family standing in front of the Two Towers back when they still existed. It's a very tiring, painful, and sad ordeal. Because, no, we don't want to forget. And, somehow, making September into "just another month" seems like a horrible way to remember those who died at the hands of terrorism. It feels like we're forgetting them.

We're not alone in this. In fact, we are far from it. London has had their fair share of terrorism. Even before Hezbollah, and al Qaeda and the Taliban, London was bombed constantly by the I.R.A. Dozens of people died or were maimed in this very city due to Irish, nationalistic terrorism, and the after effects are rampant - everywhere you go in the city, at least two CCTVs can see you. There are no bins for hundred of yards, because who knows what someone could drop in there? Who knows that damage a harmless garbage bin could do to an innocent civilian?

London has seen its fair share of terror. They've had to deal with their fair share of grief, and it almost feels like they should have their own September.

But July here... July is not like what September is in America. July in London, England is any other month, only with an exception of having a memorial that only 150 people showed up to. Only with the exception of Murray winning the Wimbledon title on the same day as the memorial, and that win taking the front page. Only with the exception... that, despite the fact that 52 people died in this city 13 years ago (including an American citizen), you would have had no idea where one of the attacks had happened if you hadn't stumbled upon it with a friend while you were trying to find the Titanic staircase. You would have completely forgotten about it if not for the fact that you'd stumbled upon those fresh flowers with "I miss you" cards attached.

You would have had no idea that the Tube Station that I go to every day to get to work was also attacked. You would have no idea that the station that I get off of to walk to work was also attacked. You would have no idea. None at all.

And maybe it has to do with this strange "European perspective" on death that I've been seeing, the idea that death is just natural - that you can play in a garden filled with dead people and drink a bottle of wine in the sunshine next to a headstone without feeling as if you're doing something wrong. The idea that, every day, you can literally walk on the sidewalk where 13 people died and not have to cry or mourn over fresh pavement that had once been covered with charred ruins of a double decker and ambulance tire tracks. The idea that... it's okay to move on. It's okay to stop the mourning and ignore the media hype and stop feeling so damn guilty about something that you could literally do nothing to stop. It's okay to just... live.

It felt so wrong of me to stand there and look at this plaque with all of those names on them and realize that I had forgotten what had happened in this city exactly eight years ago. I felt disgusted with myself, humiliated that I - who values the relationship between England and the United States more than most - would forget a day like this, the day where London was just as terrified as New York had been in 2001, because no... the number of dead does not determine the "bad-factor" of a terrorist attack. Terrorism, no matter how severe or indiscriminate, should not be ranked due to number of dead. Doing that cheapens the suffering of everyone involved. New York City was attacked... and so was London. We are both victims in this "war" (if you even want to call whatever-the-hell-this-is that), and we have both suffered. It's as simple as that.

I felt like a horrible human being.

But I looked around at the city around me - the bustling streets, the little parks that you can escape into, the tall buildings, the pale people, the loud pubs - and I realized... I'd stopped for a moment. I'd stopped at this very plaque and had felt horrible for not mourning and for not crying at this spot where thirteen people had died. But these people - these Londoners, who had witnessed it first hand, who had actually had to deal with the aftereffects... they're moving on. They haven't stopped to stare at the plaque and cry. They sidestep the flowers out of respect and keep walking towards work, or to their lunch break, or back home. And it's okay. It's alright to just... not stop. Let go and move on.

So much of the media in the States focuses on the fear, and the grief and the sadness of the 9/11 attacks. And, to an extent, yes, we should remember what happened, so that nothing like it happens again. But we've propagandized 9/11 into something that it shouldn't be. We've let that event control us - we let it propel us into a state of fear in which people could take advantage of. We let that fear propel us into a war, a war that most Americans now realize... was completely unjust and unnecessary. It's become a day where we sit around and mourn for those who died, where we cry and make Facebook posts about how that day effected us, about how we are so, so sad and angry with the world for taking away 3,000 of our own citizens and friends and neighbors. It's a day when we try to feel as much pain as the direct friends and family of those who died, because we want to feel as bad as them when in fact no one - no one - feels the pain of 9/11 more than them (<3 <3 <3). And those who don't make a big deal out of it - those who don't post something on Facebook, or wear red white and blue, or don't do something to commemorate those who died - are not patriots. They're not true Americans. But, I'm looking around me right now at London, England, and I'm seeing life go on normally, as if nothing is wrong, as if nothing happened. July 7th, 2013 was just another day. London is just another city, and July is just another month. Because they don't have to stop and cry and mourn and make documentaries and show TV specials and Tweet about it to pay respect for those who died... no. They live on. They go about their daily lives.

Because there is not greater way to pay respect to those who die than to continue living for them. And I know that if I had died, I would hate for people to have to stop, just for me. I'd hate that.

Danielle and I are both non-practicing Catholics, but we both know the "Our Father." We said one very quietly to ourselves, and then I gently pressed my hand against the plaque in a kind of... "I'm so sorry" way, because I really didn't know what else to do. And then, we walked across the street into the Ghandi Park, and saw the man of peace sitting right there, a statue forever commemorative of nonviolence and love. And it felt better. It felt alright to not look back at that spot and feel horrible about what happened, because... hey.

You've only got one life - we all do. And I've only got four weeks left to adventure in this city where July is just another month and Murray winning the Wimbledon final was the biggest news of the day. And letting fear and anger and sadness control these last few weeks for me... that's not a very good way to live it, is it?

So... until the next adventure.


No comments:

Post a Comment