Here in the UK I really have no desire to meet, talk with, stand near, or otherwise relate to other Americans. So much so that I sometimes try not to talk when I know Americans are around, for fear of being ‘found out.’ So far, the plan is working brilliantly.
There was a close call once, at a lecture given by some famous Russian guy now teaching in California. My housemate Sjors (from Holland) pointed out two American men and said, “Oh, Justin, there are some other Americans, actually real Americans I could introduce you to.”
After some inquiry I learned that my lack of ketchup consumption and use of the word ‘cool’ have rendered me ‘un-American.’
~As any of my faithful readers (and you both know who you are) know, I kind of think of myself as a rather ‘deep’ thinker. So it came with great sadness one day when Sjors (the very same) described to me his hair-brain theory (look that one up in your Dutch-English dictionary) that all thought consists on a sort of ‘bubble’ – and that when someone thinks they’re having a ‘deep’ thought, it’s really just another superficial thought, only somewhere else on the bubble by itself. In effect, his theory describes all of my philosophizing as: “not deep, just different.”
Right. So now I’m un-American and shallow.
~Most recently, I took a walk around central London with Lenart, a Slovenian
Lenart and I were walking in London and entered Soho, famous for its theatres, just a few blocks from Piccadilly circus (which, for my fellow Americans, is not really a “circus” in the Ringling Bros sense). And not long after we passed two girls, scantily clad and just standing there staring at everyone including us as we pass, Lenart informed me, “Ah, yes. And in case you ever have an Un-Buddhist thought… This is the place to find street girls.”
Hmmm… Un-American, not deep, and now I’m given pointers on where to purchase sexual favors (favours) in case I turn out also to be Un-Buddhist. Not bad for just four weeks.
Tonight, after 5 or so minutes of chatting, one of the ladies in the room below mine said, in a normal voice, “Hi Justin, can you hear us?”
“Hi Sana, yep” I answered back.
A brief conversation ensued - at basically normal speaking voice, through my floor and into Shahnaz’s room - after which the ladies decided to move to another part of the flat.
Last night we (Lenart, Sana, Shahnaz and I) discussed the merits of living where we do (Batavia Mews, aka Batavia mouse). Sure it's
- mouse infested - I recently had one walk into my room (under the door) look up at me and leave,
- noisy - traffic out front with police/ambulance sirens passing directly below every 15 minutes, a major nightclub, Venue, a half-block away, and each other through thin walls and floors.
- poorly maintained - broken showers, clogged sinks, failed heating/hot water have all been faced and some actually fixed in the last month; bathroom hooks and towel racks, broken who knows when, remain unfixed.
- in an unsafe neighborhood - one gang/drug related murder down the street last month, a couple mugging stories, broken car windows....
- anything left out?...
- It's cheap (by London standards). Rent is a mere £86/week, roughly $175, or $700/month per room for 20 of us... I guess in central London a tiny flat can cost £800-1500, or $1600-3000/month. Even the other student housing around here is an extra £15-25/week, which ads up pretty fast.
- We'll have great stories to tell our kids/grand kids. As Lenart pointed out, great stories are usually based on experiences that aren't really fun when they're happening. Those people in fancy places are surely bored with it. Yay.