30 January 2009

Music for Weather or Weather for Music

So today is a pretty stereotypical day weather-wise in North Western England. I woke up at my usual 5:45 and went for a 4 mile run. It was in the low 30's, quite windy and raining in a really inconsistent manner. Not on again/off again inconsistency, but more like in this squarefoot it was raining heavily and in that squarefoot, not so much. It was indeed kind of like spitting out. Anyhow, it definitely put a haze of melancholy on the morning so I wanted some music to match. Earlier in the week I had listened to a lot of Elliot Smith. Specifically From a Basement on a Hill, which was realeased after the singer died of a kitchen knife wound to the gut. The album is really amazing so if you have not heard it, go to iTunes and do your part for the economy now. I also had listened to Split Lip this week, which brought back a lot of memories most of which are centered around some Knights of Columbus Hall in New Jersey. So today had to be something just right and what really worked was The Decemberists. I did not choose a specific album, but merely shuffled through all I have (which is not actually too much). Anyhow, there was something about all the organs that really made it fit well with my cold, windy, and most of all wet walk from the train station to work this morning. Listening, it made me remember seeing the snowboard film December which chronicles two pro-riders as they tour much less than epic terrain in Eastern Europe during the month of December. Anyhow, there is one bit that takes place in Slovakia where they are riding at this rundown resort that seems to have fallen victim to a crew of loggers. They used a track from The Decemberists for this part which was sad yet very beautiful at the same time. Pretty cool stuff.

So that's it. Just some good music ideas for people who might be interested. If you are not, sorry to waste your time.

22 January 2009

New Neighborhood, Old Friend

As Mark mentioned in his previous post, we're in the process of preparing to move. We're both extremely excited - not only because this is one step closer to having Miller join us in England, but also because it means that we'll be steps away from restaurants, pubs, and a park.

In fact, you can see everything that will be at our fingertips on Lark Lane. Perhaps not the least seizure-inducing website, but hey - our neighborhood is cool enough to WARRANT a website. Try that with Cressington.

Over the weekend, we played Guitar Hero until our fingers cramped in a permanent fret-claw (thanks, mom!), and we noticed our stomachs growling. We ventured out in the torrential rain and warmed ourselves in the light of three large high definition televisions airing the Arsenal-Hull City football match in the Parkfield Inn pub. A few pints later, we wandered up and down Lark Lane, looking excitedly in the windows of the many restaurants and bars lining the street.

As Mark mentioned before, Jamaican Me Hungry had a special resonance for us, and we stumbled into the small restaurant a few moments before the chef came in after us, carrying bags of groceries. Selling out of food before 8pm? Sounded like an endorsement to us, so we grabbed a table and Mark went out to buy some beer for dinner.

Let's just say that was the best jerk chicken I've ever had, and I'm planning a few more dinners at this little place.

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I spent much of the week in the south for work, and got back late Wednesday night from a long drive. But we were excited, because Ray was arriving early the next morning.

What ensued was a long comedy of errors, mostly committed by me. I got in the car at 645AM, began the drive toward Manchester, and blew by the exit for the M6. I then got stuck in stop-and-go traffic until I was able to turn around and get on the motorway, which was also stop-and-go. I then raced into the airport, parked the car, and ran into the Terminal. I wandered up and down, peering into the cafes and having Ray paged repeatedly... before realizing that he was not in Terminal 2, but Terminal 1. I ran out, paid for parking, drove completely out of the airport and back in again, parked the car (after several stalls on the steep and narrow ramps), and ran into the Terminal.

I was over 45 minutes late, but Ray gave me a big hug and we were off for home.

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Mark bought tickets for The Streets the moment we arrived in England. If you don't know them, I highly recommend you check them out, because they're a lot of fun. We had a few beers, grabbed some less-than-stellar Indian food, and ventured into the Carling Academy last night. I took some truly sub-par cellphone pictures and video, but will have to upload them later. Suffice it to say, they were awesome live, and we had a ton of fun. Mike Skinner is definitely a goof live, but he got the crowd going and his band was amazing. Here's one of the hits from last night (via YouTube).

15 January 2009

Lucerne

So in preparation of the arrival of our sweet sweet dog Miller:

Kathleen and I began apartment hunting a few weeks ago. We had some criteria laid out that seemed slightly un-doable at first. The list included: dog-friendly, furnished, modern but ‘homey’ (yeah, that makes zero sense), near Liverpool (alas Manchester is just too far), on my train line, and good access to local watering holes.

The whole dog thing really cut out almost every advertised apartment out there. Most realtors would just kind of look away and frown. Most landlords who are renting furnished apartments do not want to have a dog come in and ruin them (imagine that). A good example of this attitude was numerous suggestions that we just “leave him in America.” Not happening. Our approach shifted so that we would not really mention the dog thing until after we saw an apartment. We saw a great place on Saturday and the realtor felt like the landlord might be amenable. In addition, he also mentioned another apartment owned by the same couple (cheaper and smaller – we don’t really need 4 bedrooms) in another area of Liverpool. We set out on Tuesday to go and view it.

As stated above, Kathleen and I were very eager (or keen as it is said here) to find a place within walking distance of bars and restaurants. We currently have found an amazing place called Paul’s (super clean d├ęcor with really fresh, sometimes organic, food and apparently serving the best Sticky Toffee Pudding in the area – but this is really another post) near our house now. However what it is lacking is some sort of bar scene. Not to say Kathleen and I can’t sit in the living room and make up stupid games, laugh, and make fun of each other, until the end of days… but cabin fever has shown its face a few times. It's not like we want to be like Micky Rourke in Barfly either, but friends are good to have, and a good place to meet new friends is at a bar. And even if we don’t really make any, a bar can give you “the illusion of friends” which some would argue is better than actually having friends. And most bars are just simply amusing in their own right: Cantab, The Abbey, The OP, Finnigans, The Library, Failures, Mona’s, Welcome to the Johnsons, Hole, Lit, etc…

Anyhow, I left work early and arrived in the neighbourhood a bit early. The place is off a small street called Lark Lane which is full of bars, restaurants, and shops. Immediately there were some good signs: a Thai restaurant at the end of the block (yeah, it will not be Tiny Thai but we can keep hoping), a wine bar called Aki’s (which is named after the infamous Purple Aki), a Mexican themed newspaper shop (who doesn’t love these), a restaurant called Jamaican Me Hungry (kind of an inside joke with Kathleen, but also very similar to a Noodle shop idea originated by Spencer/Courtney), and last but not least… a proper English pub: The Parkfield Inn. Full of elderly imbibers, I chose to wait for Kathleen and the realtor here. Within five minutes I was talking to one of the aforementioned imbibers about a book called Iceman (apparently it is about a Mafia contract killer… don’t ask).

Anyhow, long story short: the place was perfect and we put a rental deposit down on it today. Our lease starts on February 15 so we might have two places for a bit. Jeremy, you can choose which one you want to stay in and can even invite a lot of friends. It has three bedrooms so we can take even more visitors, so book soon! Here are some pics. Oh yeah and that is a working fireplace in the dining room...








08 January 2009

Art and Culture in London

So believe it or not, our vacation in London was not entirely spent filming each other act alternately embarrassing (see: Mark's NYE dance moves), rude (see: my blatant disregard of the handicap notice on the tube and self-righteous "dickhead" comment to Mark) or obnoxious (see: video of us running parallel to the rest of the Jack the Ripper tour in an effort to get ascloseaspossible to our tour guide; note that this occurred at ALL stops along tour, and not only the stop showed).

In fact, we spent most of our time walking the city and enjoying our location in Zone 1 of the tube for its proximity to museums and must-see locales. We visited the Tate Modern, and paid the fee to see a (crowded) Mark Rothko exhibit of his Seagram murals and many of his other late works. We spent several hours at the Tate, exploring its permanent collection as well, but it was absolutely crazy-crowded - and a marked difference from my last visit several years ago, when I was able to wander the near-empty museum. I hope that we get an opportunity to return in a few months and view the works in a less hectic atmosphere.
We also visited the British museum, which is known best for an ongoing battle with the Greek government concerning the rightful ownership of a number of murals chiseled off the Parthenon. Have to say I sort of agree with the Greeks, though the museum has some printed propaganda to the effect that the Brits saved the murals from irreparable harm after the Turks turned the Parthenon into a storage site for live ammo...

The museum is also famous for its stunning courtyard, and I have to agree - while the museum looks pretty nondescript (though large) from the street, the courtyard took my breath away. What else is this museum known for... ah, yes - the Rosetta Stone. We saw it...(or, at least, a part of it)

Have I mentioned that the museums were really crowded over the holidays? Craziness, and I have to think it was a bit worse this year, with the weak pound making it more affordable for people from all over Europe to come into the city.

We also walked around the city, visiting Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, St. James Park... A picture of Trafalgar is below:
Big Ben:
We also visited the British library near King's Cross, and though I don't have any good photos of the inside of the library, it was stunning. It was bustling with students performing research and citizens enjoying the amazing collection of works spanning centuries of literature in England and beyond - we saw the Magna Carta, 1st editions of Shakespeare's plays, illustrated bibles produced in monasteries in 800AD, scrolls from ancient China, and the list goes on. The library itself is a modern building built around a center tower for the stacks of books, with floors built like platforms around the tower with kiosks and tables for people. There's also an entire section of the library devoted to the repair and recovery of old works, and we were able to learn about how the curators repair ripped pages, reinforce disintegrated, acidic pages and hand-sew destroyed bindings.

01 January 2009

NYE 2008

Happy New Year's from London! In case you're still getting ready for the 3-2-1 countdown, here's a little something to get you extra-excited:

video