Arrived in Brighton

Current Location: Brighton, England
Brighton PierI’m now in a computer room at the University of Sussex in Brighton England. I’m surrounded by messy-haired Polish girls staring questioningly at their computer screen, bespectacled Asian guys squinting at Chinese emails from home, and a posh British girl yapping about last night on her mobile.
I arrived yesterday having caught the free megabus from London’s Victoria Greenline coach station. My seat was free; I only had to pay a 50p booking fee online. For the two and a half hour bus ride, I essentially paid 97 cents.
I was dropped off right near the pier which faces towards Antarctica. The first thing I did was put on my jacket as it was extremely blustery. Walking to the end of the pier, I had considerable trouble managing the large wind sail on my back. The beach was pebbley, but it was completely empty as I’m sure it wasn’t much fun to walk on.
The people of Brighton and the atmosphere they create reminds me of Santa Cruz. Long-hairs, street-folk who seem to like their state of being, English-major types with 12 foot scarves blowing behind them, and hip old bearded men roam the narrow streets. It has a very ‘co-op’ feel to it.
I passed a slow-walking old couple and heard the woman say ‘ooh looks like a spot of rain’s coming.’ I took their warning seriously, and sat down in a very cheap-looking fish and chips cafe with bag and all. Of course it immediately started raining.
From my vantage point on the pier 10 minutes earlier, I knew I had seen this coast before. I recalled a vague fight scene in a UK film where the gangs jumped down from the street level to battle on a stony beach… then it came to me ‘Quadrophenia’… I had seen it during one of the Punk Film screenings at Vassar. I did a little research just now and I was right. I want to find the cliffs that the star of the movie launched his scooter off at the end of the film. Perhaps I’ll sendoff a biodegradable scooter model and you’ll get some photos out of it, dear reader.
I had left London knowing people at the University at Brighton and Sussex, and the address of what seemed like a very nice hostel located within the ‘Palace Hotel’ about a minute’s walk from the pier. I managed to find shelter with a friend at Sussex only after a couple minutes of searching.
Last night I was in the most impressive dance club I’ve ever seen. The club’s name is ‘Creation’ and was was the last stop on a hectic Pub Crawl/Exodus through Brighton. ‘Creation’ as it’s called was filled to the brim with Brighton and Sussex students. Three dance floors. I couldn’t even count how many bars there were. The small ‘cheese room’ featured songs like ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and ‘Build me up Buttercup’ with heavy doses of Van Halen and Ah-Hah. I felt oddly estranged from the endless American music that I found myself unable to sing along to. It was like 80s night in there, except more British. The main room was teeming with over 200 wasted kids dancing to songs like ‘Blur – Song 2’, Strokes, The Killers, and Gorillaz. I had trouble realizing what country I was in. The ‘Act Three’ room was Kanye West, Diddy, Tupac, and other hometown heroes.
I know for sure I’m developing an accent, so I guess I better head up to Scotland soon to throw myself another language curve-ball. I’ll first stop in York, though. Word on the street is that Constantine the Great, founder of Constantinople, became Emperor up in York.

So Brighton is like this: Alternative folks, organic foods, white bleached dreds and goth costumes, long narrow lanes with smoke shops, smoothie bars, african imports, and the like. A very eclectic city if you’re in the right places, but for most people it’s a posh place to go to H&M, vacation for a bit, or gaze at the tumultuous Atlantic while enjoying the gusty cold winds. For me, It’s been settling in with a lot of Freshman and my friend Martine to Sussex University all the while knowing I’ll be gone in a flash.

Random London Images

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Regent’s Gardens

The Canal North of Regent’s Park (full size)
North of Regent’s Park

Regent’s Park (full size)
Regent's Park, London

At the Royal Naval Observatory, Greenwich
Royal Naval Observatory
Greenwich Back Streets

Waterloo Bridge, London

-Images lovingly produced by Autostich.
Graffiti on the South Bank West of Waterloo Bridge in London:

click for Continue reading “Random London Images”

For Travelers: How to Absorb the City

Met an awesome brotha in Picadilly backpackers hostel in London a couple days ago. His name is Sasha, and he is most likely from a foreign country. Here he offers advice to not only the hostellers of London, but of the entire world. Follow along below if the video doesn’t work or you can’t understand.

All you there. This is for the people who are sitting in a fucking common room wasting their time in the best city in the whole world. Man this is real. My grammar is not perfect. I want to enjoy the atmosphere around here. I don’t want to watch ‘sex in the city’ it’s crazy! I am here for meeting people, for partying and not for watching TV.”
Transcribing is hard work.
London hostel
Sasha (Sweden?) in green. Chris on the left. Bianca on right, and Sarah with eyes closed (Both Toronto, Canada).
Amelia, Dan, Cathy

A Masonic Pilgramage; The People of London

I was allowed to take photos... but only in the bathroom. This is the doorknob. Two days ago I spent some time perusing the Freemason’s museum in London. It’s housed in a massive, parliamentary-like granite building on Queen’s Gate street just NE of the Picadilly area. I spotted some masonic symbols on the door and made my way past the guard at the front. I was asked to sign in, and was given a name tag. The man at the information desk told me my bag would be searched but I was allowed through after only signing in and attaching a name tag. I walked for what seemed like a while past executive suites and offices and occasionally I would pass a very serious ‘Grand Master’ type walking sternly with his arms folded behind him. When I reached the actual entrance, I was met by a man who checked my name tag and stowed my bag. I wished I had kept my camera in my pocket, because the pomp and hilarity of what I witnessed for the next 20 minutes could fill a grain silo.
There were museum-quality displays with gold crosses, a flurry of gold-crusted masonic imagery, and cloth shields of every imaginable design from the past 300-odd years jammed into the space of an Olympic sized swimming pool. I could almost hear the words that started the organization:
Rich Bloke #1: “Why, Nigel, I do believe I‚Äôd like to establish a ceremonial men’s club.” Rich Bloke #2: “Indeed. And you know I do look good in gold-threaded aprons.” And then there you have it. It grew into an unstoppable flurry of revelry that grew into a tradition-fetish mired in rites and honors of the highest snubbery. In that museum I was witnessing the vomited regalia of the past 300 glorious years.

For an efficient history of Masons, push here.

Recently I’ve been exploring the many other free museums in London. More so than any city, I find that London tends to ‘have it’ whether ‘it’ is the Rosetta Stone, or some other first of mankind.
Yesterday I was in the boat section of the science museum, and I was honored with a 20 minute lecture on Dutch crafts by a Dutchman who saw me looking at one of the thousand of models. At first I thought he was a tour guide, but he was just a friendly rosy-cheeked boat-type. Also smelled of cabbage.
The science museum blew me away: Not only do they have the original ‘Difference Engine’ built by Charles Babbage (capable of massive addition and subtraction contained within a tractor-sized contraption) but they are building another one, at great expense for a museum in the USA. The museum essentially contains the first of everything in all the sciences, and I’m glad I had a chance to check it out. Did I mention admission is free?

After spending some serious time in London, I can safely say that Londoners are among the most polite, relaxed, adaptable, and interesting people I’ve ever met. Everyone I’ve met has been incredible. They have helped me when I’ve fallen in the Airport, apologized for evil smells no matter who is responsible, and appeared generally jolly.
The funny thing about London is that most people here are were not born here. Cities like New York that we tend to call ‘International Cities’ are only halfway there. Only about half of the people I’ve met so far were even born in the UK. I’ve run into Albanians, South Africans, Lebanese, Dutch, Germans, lots of Frenchfolk, and a handful of American students.

Nearly Deported, but I Made it

I was denied access to entering the UK. Well, that’s not entirely true: It was for 20 minutes, but 20 minutes that felt like 5 hours. Here’s what happened: I got off the plane and walked up to the man who reads my ‘landing card’ and checks out my passport. He was a short Pakistani man, and grabbed my passport from me. He had an awesome mustache. Here’s how the conversation went:
How long are you staying in London
I’m not sure how long. I know my next stop is Edinburgh, where I’ll be meeting a couple friends.
Do you have their addresses? Are you meeting anyone in the airport? Do you have over 100 [British] pounds on you?
Nope no and no.
He continues to ask me very detailed questions about the trip, and I reply straightforwardly. I keep telling him items on my itinerary, and he keeps telling me that their aren’t concrete plans that he can stamp or use to prove that I won’t become a drain on the British monetary fund.
Ok, then do you have a return ticket?
Yes. [I show him the ticket that shows me leaving London on May 1st, 7 months later]
Ok. I’m going to deny you entry. [He starts writing on my landing card the terms of the deportment]. Because you are staying longer than four months in the country, you aren’t studying, aren’t working, and you have no proof of funds in your accounts, you cannot enter the country. He says that as far as he knows, I am staying in London for 7 months. I’m not allowed to do that. I must be deported.
At this point, I’m trying to explain away myself PROMISING HIM that I will get a ticket to Copenhagen, Denmark the instant I get into my hostel (which I don’t have a reservation form for) but he only writes down these intimate promises on the back of my landing card, which has become a massive laundry list of my infractions.
One thing that helps is when I tell him I have a Eurail pass that doesn’t work in England (but works in Ireland, Germany, Italy, France… and so on). I tell him it lasts for two months once I activate it, and I can travel for 10 days within that 2 month period. He says no can do, because it is still no guarantee that I will use that Eurail pass.
So this great guy fills the back of a landing card with all my 7 month supposed plan, and then says ‘Excuse me sir’–the nicest thing I’ve heard all day, and walks up to an observation booth where he gets this landing card cleared (and begins the process of shipping me back to New York City). He brought with him my passport, my plane ticket, my return ticket itinerary printout, and my Eurail pass.
I can see him through the 20% tinted observation booth windows, and he’s talking to a young woman who’s clearly in charge. He doesn’t talk to her for longer than 2 minutes, then walks back to my booth, looks around for something on the desk, then goes to another desk and brings back a stamp. It appears I do not have to crap all over the floor, because he stamps my passport, and says this: “Because your Eurail pass expires in two months we will allow you in the country.” I say thanks, I’ll read up on my travel requirements in the future, and so on… and I skitter off. The funny thing is, my Eurail pass doesn’t expire in two months. It only lasts for two months once I activate it, and I can activate it as late as February 26th! Ha hah! By Trafalgar, that’s as long as it takes for me to take the money out of every bloody fountain here and send the British economy to ruins! I was so overwhelmed with luck, I tripped on a old woman’s rolly thing and had a nice tumble.
I got another stress barf feeling when I was riding on the underground away from Heathrow. I was on the picadilly line, and after two stops there was an announcement: “Due to a security issue, we must ask you to disembark from this train at the next stop.” I was sure that the kind Pakistani man who let me enter the country discovered his error, and had alerted the nation. Turns out it wasn’t for me, but you can only imagine the looks thrown towards the tall, sweaty, and now short-haired bloke with the massive backpack under his watchful eye.

Dear British High Commission, I won’t be in your country too long, though your employee may have made a mistake. Before you know it, I’ll be riding donkeys in Turkey. I hope I haven’t been an inconvenience.

Besides that business, London is an amazing colorful, fast-moving (but polite) brickey city. The cars jump out from the wrong ways down the cobbley streets, but the water tastes good, things only cost 3 times much as they do in the U.S., and I’m having a great time on my own.

The Mane is Gone

Because I’d like to improve my sight and hearing for my European trip, I’ve cut off all my hair. It was sad to see it go, as you can see by my somber look. Here’s the money shot.
a new day is dawning
(and here’s the before after the after)
bee bee bee dete

What is the college for?

Remember those away message I use to have more prominent on the site? I found them again, and threw them in a Wiki… which means that you can add your own favorite away messages. Click here to see them all, and add your own by editing the original page.

Here’s a favorite. I’ve found it quoted on other websites (with thanks to by people who’ve thought it was an original creation. It’s actually lyrics from a Dead Kennedy’s song:

I go to college
That makes me so cool
I live in a dorm
And show off by the pool

I join the right clubs
Just to build an impression
I block out thinking
It won’t get me ahead

My ambition in life
Is to look good on paper
All I want is a slot
In some big corporation

John Belushi’s my hero
I lampoon and I ape him
My news of the world
Comes from Sports Illustrated

I’m proud of my trophies
Like my empty beer cans
Stacked in rows up the wall
To impress all my friends

No, I’m not here to learn
I just want to get drunk
And major in business
And be taught how to fuck

Win! Win!
I always play to win
Wanna fit in like a cog
In the faceless machine

I’m a terminal terminal terminal preppie


the song continues:

Terminal terminal terminal preppie
Terminal terminal terminal terminal
Terminal terminal terminal terminal
I want a wife with tits
Who just smiles all the time,
In my centerfold world
Filled with Springsteen and wine!
Some day I’ll have power,
Some day I’ll have boats.
And a tract in some suburb,
With Thanksgivings to host!

European Year Off: Frequently Asked Questions

10 Days till Heathrow…

PragueLast weekend I visited Vassar to say hello before I escaped away to my cabin for another week. It was great to see everyone, and I noticed almost everyone had the same questions about this European trip I’m about to begin. For the people who I haven’t been staying in touch with, I can’t imagine how many questions you guys have. And so, I feel it is probably the right time to write a Frequently Asked Questions for my year off:
Where are you going?
I can tell you where I’m starting, and where I’d like to go, but I have no absolutely guaranteed destinations except for my first: London. Cities I would be foolish to miss include: Copenhagen [Denmark], Vienna [Austria], Prague [Czech Republic], Rome Venice Florence Bologna [Italy], Berlin [Germ.], Paris [Fr], Barcelona, Madrid, Cordoba [Spain], Amsterdam [Ho],….
How long will you be over there?
From 7-10 Months. I have a ticket back from London on May 1st (because I may return for Founder’s Day) but I may stay longer.
What are you bringing?
I’m taking a Gregory ‘Whitney‘ backpack filled with what I hope will be all I need for the Fall seasons. I’m bringing minimal clothing (3 Shirts 2 pants 4 socks 1 pair of boots and a roll of duct tape {and some more goodies}) and I’ll experiment/throw things out as I go to lighten the load. I’m keeping the gadgets to a minimum. Only a Petzl headlamp and a Garmin Etrex GPS receiver.
Will you visit me when I’m in AmazingCity, EuropeanCountry?
Yes. If you have sent me your address, I will do my best to come see you and share with you hitchhiking stories and hang out.
So, like, you’re just not studying at all?
Nope. And on top of that, I was reclassified to 2008. It’s like I’m in an undefinable gate of heaven–in limbo between real academia and absolute independent worldy experimentation. It’s bloody awesome.
So that’s all groovy, but what exactly will you dooOOoo for all that time?
Phew. I’m glad someone finally asked me that, because I wasn’t sure myself. Honestly… only in the past month have I considered all those hours, weeks, and months on my own. The first phew weeks of planning I focused on how to get from one place to another. As a general rule, I’ll take one city at a time, leaving all options open. I may have stints where I travel around with like-minded Euro-folk I meet in hostels… there may be weeks where I spend a lot time in modern art museums.
I know for a fact that I’ll be spending a lot of time hiking around Interlocken in Switzerland in the Spring. As a rough-around-the-edges thought experiment, here’s a sample itinerary for Dublin: I’ll wake up in a homely ol’ hostel and give myself a little stretch and feedmeself some jam and bread. I’ll cruise over to the wall map of the surrounding area, and find some trails to hike. I’ll trek through the mists and over rocky mounds, then brunch on wicked strong cheeses and powerful sausages atop thick Irish rolls. I’ll saunter back to the city, peak in some museums, and socialize with the townies. Thing worth seeing, I’ll see. And doings worth doing will be done. A few weeks of this might satisfy me for even 3 cities, but I’ve got 7 months, sugar.
Only cities? But why?
Unless I can find a place to stay in the lesser-populated areas of Europe, I’ll be spending most of my time in Hostels and places accepting payment.
Are you scared?
Yeah. Scared I’ll have too much fun and crap myself.

Do you have a question? Respond below or click here.