Sunday, August 09, 2015

My Very Short Lived Acting Career

I am a performer. This is something I know about myself and I am very good on a stage when I have to do what I have to do. What I'm really good at doing is explaining things I already know to be true.

I like truth. I'm good at it. I'm good at presenting it, breathing it, making it real.

Things I'm not good at are acting, though. I don't like to act, which seems like a contradiction, but I realize the truth in it. There are aspects of me that are just simply better at being who I am then being who I am not.

For my off-broadway premier I chose a piece that was me, speaking to me, speaking to my life, a past life. Somehow, in speaking to that past life I realized that there was a part of it that was just acting, holding onto something that I could not really hold onto.

When I was sitting backstage with the troupe waiting for my term I was in my normal almost on stage place. I felt good, I felt strong. I felt fairly confident about what it was that I was doing. On that stage I would do what I needed to do and I would be fine.

The reality was different. The lights in my face were terrifying to me, somehow. I was nervous, edgy. The edgy came off in the performance. As I started to talk, working through what I rehearsed I realized that was part of the problem. I can do rehearsed but I'm much better off if I just speak it, roll with it, tell the story like a story.

So I allowed myself to embrace the story and went with it. I improved a little, I allowed the story to come through until the lights went down and I exited stage left.

"You're shaking like a leaf," says Hellion who catches me when I come off the stage.

He gives me a glass of wine and I sit, shaking, watching the rest of the performance and wondering to myself what the hell I was thinking.

My performance life is different. I prefer my reality to the unreality.

Still, I had my moment on stage and I don't regret it.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Sometimes I have good ideas, and then really bad ones.

New York was waiting for me, but not the dog. The dog was still off in Chicago and arrangements would have to be made. I missed the dog immensely and my place felt lonely without him. In the meantime I had something different to focus on because for no readily apparent reason I had decided before leaving for London that it would be a good idea to perform in a friend’s eclectic review in an off-Broadway show. I don’t always make great decisions about things, and considering, this seemed like a bad one.

I had selected a few pieces of writing and sent them along, and of the three, one was selected as a piece that would be totally appropriate for the show. I was asked to memorize it.

That should have been the first sign that I was in over my head, as memorizing things for a performance is practically my kryptonite. I’m good at hitting bullet points, or outlining a plan and staying on it, but memorization? Saying exact words in an exact order? Not so good at that. Fortunately I had a week to prepare, but unfortunately I didn’t really know if even a week would be enough. The fact that I had only a week was entirely my fault, of course. I had over am month to knuckle down and rehearse, but between my dog dying and going to London, it had gotten away from me.

I tried all sorts of things.

I tried writing it over and over again.

I tried reading it over and over again.

None of that was working very well. I asked Hellion to help.

“How do you memorize a script?”

“Did you read it?”


“Read it again.”

“Okay, after that?”

“That’s kinda it.”


Finally, I recorded the damn pieces and started listening to it over and over again on my walk to work in the morning. This worked better and after four days I had all of 1 minute of a 5 minute piece memorized.

At least the impending panic of performing in the show was distracting me from the quiet home with its lack of dog.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Of course, Shakespeare.

The next day was all work, which ended with a walk to a rather impressive Tavern overlooking the river (?) where I and my many colleagues had a bit too much champagne and wine and talking but overall enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. Londoners, it seems, have a very Korean idea of weekday drinking habits, and I can get behind that.

Once the drinking had ended it was time to head back to the hotel, but I decided, since this was the last night I had free in London that I needed to do one more thing. That thing? Go and see the Globe theater, or at least the re-incarnation of the Globe theater. I had mentioned this earlier and someone tried to get me a ticket to As You Like It, but sadly there were not tickets for the show. I was fine with that, as I mostly just wanted the experience of seeing the place. Having said goodbye to my colleagues, who pointed me in the general direction to walk, I set off.

This walk took me along the river, which was lovely as the sun was  slowly lowering in the sky. There were people everywhere, picnicking, and having dinner, which reminded me that I would need to eat dinner at some point myself, but I would worry about that later, I decided. However, I wasn’t sure about eating along the river. I was sure that I wanted to keep walking and find the theater.

Again, it’s overwhelming to walk in London. I want to live in this city, to just be able to be there for a year so I can walk about like these Londonites who no longer look about their day to day with awe. I might need more than a year, maybe five, until this place could stop fascinating me. It’s just so full of so many things. Living and breathing history, an experience that I would have over and over again, where it not quite so expensive (the place is not cheap). Maybe I’ll get lucky and my employer will decide to move me there, one can always hope.

The walk was around two miles during which I passed any manner of things, took any manner of pictures, and mostly was so full of champagne and wine that everything was pretty and interesting and amusing and joyful and exciting. The excitement and anticipation building as I passed the posted maps where, when I started walking did not show the Globe, but as I continued to walk finally showed it getting closer and closer until, finally, I passed under a bridge and there it emerged in front of me, a pretty round building with a mural dedicated to its history posted out front.

The thing that shocked me most was that it was so small.

But it felt enormous. I walked about it taking pictures and thinking and just breathing in the air in the space until I noticed there was a Globe Bar, because of course. I walked  up the stairs, where some very pleasant waiters happily seated me at a long wooden bench table where I had a drink and broke bread. Because Shakespeare.

I skipped the walk back and got into a black cab, its own experience. Inside the cab I learned from reading that the shape and design was optimal for passengers, and that the shape and construction of the cab was popular around the world. The cab included a long bench seat in the back and in the front a blank space where two jump seat could be folded down, easily allowing you to fit five. To get inn you open the door and just walk in, making it really easy to enter and exit. The interior rather like that of a can, but in the size of a car. The driver was pleasant and I was back in St. Martin’s Lane without any trouble before I could even begin to worry about it. 

Thursday, August 06, 2015

A Little Mall

I walked back a slightly different way, exiting them all for some stairs. I had a general sense of the direction I needed to go in, and fortunately Trafalger square was pretty well signposted from where I was. Another thing I noticed about London, even though my phone wanted to constantly fail me, there were maps on the street everywhere, which was very handy.  I took the twisty turny route and walked by an archway that peeked my interest, and it had a sign on it. ‘

At this point, basically every building should have a sign on it. You feel you are rather constantly being hit over the head with history and some signs I stopped to read, and some I did not. This one I did stop to read as the sign interested me, as did the covered white and blue alleyway with windows just beyond. And what I had stumbled onto was a mall.

Actually it wasn’t just a mall, it was the mall, or arcade if you will, the first street aligned shopping mall that had ever been constructed. While it had been bombed during the war, part of the façade had managed to survive intact and, over time, had been restored into the pretty little covered mall I was looking at today. I walked down the alley and there was a wine shop, with tables outside.

This, to mine mind, seemed like the perfect sign that what I really needed to do was take a rest after my walk to Buckingham palace and have a glass of wine and some olives. So that is exactly what I did. The Spanish waiter was sweet. The tempernillo was good. The olives were spiced. The sun was setting and the evening was taking on a crisp quality that was pleasant, making me feel quite good that I had chosen adventure over staying in my room or simple exploring St. Martin’s Lane. The feeling of goodness lasted all the way back to my hotel, where I decided to pop into the French restaurant next door and get a nice low-carb dinner before finally retiring for the evening.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Let's Entertain Myself

Tuesday was rather less exciting, in that to find the location for my meeting was much easier as it was scheduled to be around the corner from the hotel. After five and a half hours of talking linguistic theory and learner development I was freed to finish my day at the hotel. I had a few meetings and at 5 o’clock decided I really needed to get out of my room and see something, anything else.

What to do in London now?

Fuck it, let’s walk to Buckingham Palace.

Taking the most unreliable monster that was my phone with me, I looked up directions and headed out again. I found the Mall easily enough and walked down the long, clear parkway. I could imagine what it must be like to stand as an observer on the Mall waiting and watching a hundred years ago to get a glimpse of a royal hand, what it might be like today during national holidays and large events to do the same. On this pleasant Tuesday afternoon it was uncrowded, with people playing up and down in the park, willow trees blowing in the wind, and children laughing and rolling on the ground and tourists groups full of school children on one hand and Koreans on the other, walked towards the palace.

From my hotel it was only about a mile to the palace and so it took me little time to walk out. It was, of course gorgeous, and the clouds behind it that afternoon made it look somewhat intimidating and fierce, with gold glit angels shining and sparkling in the occasional beams of sunshine that punched through crowds. I stood for a while, watching cars navigate the roundabout, listening to tourists and their chatter, and enjoying the pleasant mix of gloomy clouds and random sun, before I realized I was actually kind of hungry and now would be a good time for dinner.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Damn Good Coffee

Tuesday morning I got out of bed after sleeping in til 6:30. I showered and did some grading and prepared to head downstairs. Breakfast was on the job and I wanted to see what I could get for an early morning breakfast in London at a fancy place like this.

The boutique hotel reminded me of the IP Boutique in Korea, which is to say, that the IP Boutique had most likely copied this Boutique hotel. I was mildly amused.

The breakfast room downstairs was quiet and I got a little table by myself and looked over the menu but decided on the breakfast buffet.

“Would you like coffee?”

“Is there a god?”

“Cream and sugar?”

“Black is fine.”

While coffee made its way to me I made my way to breakfast which had breads and cheeses and fruits and yogurts. Nothing out of the ordinary or surprising. I had some cheese as it was low carb day and waited for the coffee.

A coworker came in while I was sitting and sat down, we chatted. The coffee arrived in a pretty little white porcelain cup on a saucer. I talked, allowing just enough time before having the coffee, which I turned towards me.

My co-worker talked as I raised a cup to my lips.

My co-worker talked as I took a sip.

“Oh, my that’s…that’s damn good coffee. Damn good coffee.”

My co-worker stopped and looked me.

Part of my wanted to apologize but I didn’t. I stand by my coffee exclamation. I had a second cup.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Dinner Alone, No.

After a bit more indecisive wandering, without the heavy bag, I finally decided on the pub. I walked in and the place as absolutely packed but it advertised a downstairs dining area so I thought I was in luck. I was wrong, sadly, as it was closed so I ended up standing in the middle of a busy bar like a lump trying to figure out what to do.


I turned around.

“Whyntcha take this seat here, I’ll watch it for you while you order.”

The gent in question talking to me was an older bloke who had been leaning over a railing from a slightly elevated indoor bar deck. And just behind him was a small table tucked in the corner. I shrugged, knowing I’d have to sing for my seat but deciding it was worth it all the same.


And so I went and ordered fish and chips, because London, and a glass of red wine, because me, and asked if they would serve it or if I’d need to wait. It didn’t look like the waitstaff did much serving, so I waited, grabbed my food, and squeezed in past the bloke to the seat. Of course, since I had walked the whole of London I decided I could have fish and chips.

“Oh, that looks alright.”

“It does.”

“And what are you hear for?”

“A meeting.”



It was at that point that I think we both decided rather completely on anonymity, and while I understood that he was really hoping to get laid he caught on really quick that the best he was going to get was a conversation and that was something we could both live with. And so it was, he talked about construction and teaching business people, watching young executives waste money in London, and the prospect of retirement. I talked about Korea, about New York, travel, adventure, and life. After an hour, and a second glass of wine, I stood, we shook hands, and I saw myself back down the road to the hotel where I crashed fully exhausted from the long day, morning in-room workout, two mile walk and talking dinner.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

London Wifi Is Awesome

On the third turn around the station I had it, and I was off. London, at the this beautiful golden twilight hour, was a sparkling, glittering wonderland of buildings. You see this to some extent in New York, and even in Chicago. Walking next to a building built a hundred years ago, and then a building built maybe five years ago. But the sense of time is so oppressive in long. This is time lived in centuries more so than I had experienced before. It was breathtaking.

The way the old buildings mixed with new construction were of particular interest to me. I paused, taking pictures here and there, being amused by the randomness of it. I enjoyed that the streets constantly reminded you which way to look for oncoming traffic. The mind-boggling number of one way streets really would confuse people traveling in to site see from abroad. It started raining a bit, but I had an umbrella and just as I was approaching a turn I and trying to figure out where I was my phone died again.

So here is the challenge. I’m in a foreign country and relying on an electronic map, which would have been well and good had I been able to save that map to my phone, but I had not. Meaning, I’d have to restart my phone and pull the map back up, only I wouldn’t have wifi, so now I’m well and truly screwed, at least a mile out from King’s Cross and not exactly sure what direction I’m supposed to head in. What will I do?

I turn the phone back on. I pull up the wifi, and lo and behold I have a signal from the London Underground. This is when I learned that London is easily the single most wired city I have ever explored. No matter how many times I had to stop and restart my damnable phone, I was always able to get a signal and figure out which direction I should be heading in next. I walked across bridges and plaza, saw more churches, libraries and museums, restaurants and little castles than any human has a right to on a walk, and I found a Tesco, which really, truly did my Korean heart good. And in the end? I came out exactly where I expected to in St. Martin’s Lane, just down the corner from my hotel, which, having found it once was easier to find the next time.

Elated, I walked back to my room, dropped off my bags and decided I should have some food.

As St. Martin’s Lane is the Broadway of London, there is no lack of places to eat, the challenge more finding something I wanted to eat. It was close on 8 oclock. I walked up and down the street. There was a Jamie Oliver restaurant a few blocks up, some chic Indian place that had a line down a block and a half, several pubs, and of course Chinatown.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Don't Get Lost.

It always amuses me how much everyone worries about my ability to get around when I travel. I think to myself, “I lived in ASIA for 12 YEARS!” but have stopped saying it outloud as it gets me nowhere. Aside from missing the train back by about 15 seconds and having to wait 20 minutes for the next one, I was able to board the train and figure out the process of getting back to King’s Cross without too much difficulty. The train had wifi so I dutifully checked facebook and all the other things that you do when you have access to wifi, until finally I read my book until the train landed. The trains were as nice, comfortable and clean as a KTX and made me wish that American commuter trains could evolved a little bit more. I miss the trains of Asia. Even Germany has a nicer train system than the US, which seems somehow unfair, really.

King’s Cross Station, viewed often from Harry Potter films, or James Bond films or other British films (do they make a movie in London where they DON’T shoot something at King’s Cross Station?) was large and very busy being the commuter hour. My phone, which was still connected to wifi, gave me a map for how to get back to my hotel. I had two options. I could walk, about two miles, or take a cab, about 8 pounds.

However, I had decided that as my time in London was limited, my options were also limited and I was going to walk to make the most of a nice evening and improve my chances of seeing the sites in London. I also figured at I could get dinner at some point, and wouldn’t mind the walk. I had even expressed as much to one of my co-workers before leaving who then demanded to see my shoes. I showed off my ever present combat boots and assured her that these Docs were made for walking and two miles was a short one in the span of life I had been wearing these shoes.

So, I kicked up my heals and began my journey which took me around and around and around King’s cross station three times because I couldn’t find the right exit to the street. It did not help that, at exactly this moment, my phone decided to kick up with one of its favorite tricks of completely and utterly failing, requiring me to reset it in order to get it to function. I hate the white phone, and my loathing has only increased over the last two years. However, it was my map and guide and I was sure that even with the phone wetting the bed constantly I would be able to walk from King’s Cross to  St. Martin Lane.

As long as I could find the right exit street.