Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pig Panic

Seriously, what's up with all the swine panic? Do we as a human race (and Americans especially) really just need something to freak out about at all times? Now that we live in sublime comfort (compared to the rest of our ancestors for, say, most of human history), and we don't have to go out and chase buffalo for food, and worry about starvation, cold, death by being burned as a heretic, and any other number of ways to die that led to a life expectancy of about 28... are we just finding new and ridiculous things to freak out about?

If I hear one more person talk about a pandemic I'm going to throw something at them. Seriously.

That being said, to stop complaining for a second, how much do I totally love Fresh and Easy markets? I knew I would since they're owned by Tesco in the UK, who's Tesco Local in Covent Garden I bought many a lunchtime prawn sandwich from, but additionally, they are just a really great supermarket. Like a combination of Trader Joe's (size, unique brands, lots of good organic produce) and Costco (stuff isn't unpacked all the time, it's super-cheap, free samples) it is the only place I've been doing grocery shopping for about 2 months now. And for the 30 minutes a week that I'm there, I can ignore all the American accents, focus on the wheatabix and marmite, and pretend that I'm back in Covent Garden and I shall shortly walk over to Charing Cross Road and spend two hours in Foyle's. It's kind of the way I get in the Boots aisle at Target. For a couple of blissful moments a week I can stare at the Boots brands, and pretend I'm in Picadilly and will be walking back up to Brewer Street stopping for a coffee from the Italian Stallion at Cafe Nero along the way.

It's funny how life gets all wrapped up in brands...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Art and Gardens

I am having an absolutely lovely Saturday, which was preceded by an absolutely lovely Friday. Loveliness abounds!

Yesterday I had a lunch thing in Westwood on Mulholland Drive, which lasted until nearly 4. Rather than sit in Friday rush-hour traffic for three hours, I decided to go to LACMA and take in some renaissance art. I never thought I was much of an art person. I'm not particularly visually stimulated, I don't learn much through watching movies and such, and the only D I ever got in college was art history, which was mostly slide-identification, and since it was Renaissance art, it was all Madonna and Child and I couldn't see any difference in them.

Then when I lived in London I worked really close to the National Gallery, and over lunch one day I thought "Self, you really should get your butt up there and look at some original Da Vinci's" and since it was free, I went. Man. It rocked my world. Looking at pictures in a textbook, and original canvasses is not at all the same experience. I could stare at Da Vinci's sketches for hours, looking at the scratches the pencil made, thinking how his hand was right there, wondering what he was thinking about when he was doing it. Wandering around the rest of the gallery I was amazed to see how people played with light and dimensions, and to see the amazing colors in the altarpieces. It was all a total trip and got me back into art (that snotty professor who said I was lazy and just didn't care can kiss my butt, too).

So yesterday I went to the European art building, skipped right through the Greeks and Egyptians, and parked myself in front of an altarpiece depicting the story of St. George. Fortunately I'm a medieval geek, and the rest of the crowd wasn't as impressed with the portraits of virgins as I was, so I had the spot pretty much to myself. It gave my soul a nice artistic fill-up, which it was needing. When I walked back out to the main plaza, there was a big jazz concert, and I bought a fruit salad, took it to a bench in the park by the tar pits (in prehistoric times LA was covered in tar, and the La Brea Tar Pits are the coolest thing ever - they've found all kinds of dinosaur remains in them) and enjoyed the sun and the music.

Then I drove to the freeway via Wilshire, and passed by the neighborhood I lived in the first time I was in LA, before London, in 1998. It's always fun to go back there. I loved my little studio apartment with the fold-in-the-wall bed, and I always say hello to the neighborhood whenever possible.

This morning I slept in and then got to work clearing a square of land in the backyard in which I am planning a vegetable garden. It had a lot of overgrowth and rocks that needed digging up, as well as a few odd small tree stumps, but I got through about half of it, and hopefully I won't be too sore to finish it tomorrow. Then next week I shall begin planting the carrots, green beans, lettuce and cucumbers. Won't I feel smug later this summer when I make dinner and nonchalantly say "oh, this salad? Yes, the lettuce is from the garden outside..." I make myself want to puke just thinking about it.

We had homemade pizza night, which is the Saturday Thing To Do, and then I took a long soak with Christopher Buckley. Well, his book. Not him. I also went to the library and returned a bunch of Alison Weir books I'd taken out - I'm trying out her historical fiction...I don't blame her for writing historical fiction when she sees what the Phillappa Gregory's of the world are doing, but man, I think she should stick to nonfiction. Though her history of Katherine Swynford was dry as dust, but I don't think that was her fault - there aren't a lot of records to go off of for the 12th and 13th centuries, except payments made from someone to someone else, so nearly every page says something like "Later that year, Leicester made a payment of 2 pounds to Katherine" and thus we can assume something. I slogged through it. Hopefully the murder of Lord Darnley will be more compelling.

Off to bed, and setting the alarm EARLY for the Bahrain Formula One race tomorrow - we're tivoing it, but want to try to wake up early to watch it live, and thus, send good energy to Lewis Hamilton.

Monday, April 20, 2009


I'm hanging out in the san jose airport. In the past six days I've been in the following airports - Atlanta, LAX, Ontario (California - not Canada), Charlottesville VA, and here, San Jose. I swear, I should get a job as a flight attendant...

I like airports because I'm in this world that's kind of like a video game or Second Life or something. It's semi-real - the stores are recognizable, the people look human, the bathrooms are usually clean, and the environment is a super-sterilized version of the normal world. At the same time, everyone in an airport is in their own world, coming and going, wishing they were somewhere else, anywhere else besides a sterilized airport. I like looking at the departure screens and imagining all the places that I could go. I could accidentally stow away on a flight to Singapore, and the next time I smelled fresh air, it would be Singaporean air.

A few years ago I was in Norway, and after a horrible week that included the worst heat-wave they've ever had (in a non-airconditioned hotel, of course), sickness, and a ridiculously busy work schedule, I was in the airport, which looked like an Ikea showroom, and got ready for the second half of my work-trip, in the UK. I was boarding a flight to Heathrow, which, under any other circumstances, would have made me ever so happy. But all I could do was sit under the departure screens staring at the flight to New York, longingly, wishing more than anything that I could be going home. And the funny thing was that the gates were next to each other. Going down one gangway would have taken me to Newark. The other took me to Slough (the most miserable city in the UK according to a recent study).

I like airport time, and plane time, because I'm pretty much un-get-a-hold-of and the world moves in slow motion for me. Plus there's expensive sodas and Cinnabon, which normally I would never go near, but Airport Calories don't count (they apparently get taken away when you go above 30,000 feet). So it's a good day.