i just finished reading the novel Generation X by Douglas Coupland.  yeah, i'm a few years behind the curve with respect to the cultural significance of that particular book, but i enjoyed it none-the-less.

i've lived the last 15 or so years thinking i was a member of what people refer to as "Generation X."  i say that not because i'm a slacker (which i sometimes am) -- not because i have a terminal lack of direction (though i do) -- not because i have failed to make good use of my education (this is true) -- nor because i am hugely cynical (which i am)-- but simply because i thought my birth date put me solidly in Generation X.  now that i've actually read the book i find that according to Coupland -- the Canadian writer who coined the phrase "Generation X" -- i am technically too young to be a Gen X-er.  i am the tip of its fringe at best.

i have to admit i was a little disappointed to find this out.  i thought my early college years, which coincided directly with the birth of grunge and disenfranchised, flannel-shirt-wearing youth were summed up by the phrase Generation X.  alas, i was wrong.  i came along too late on the timeline of pop culture. 

but i read the whole book anyway.  and what i found is that i related closely to most of the things that made the three main characters tick.  i realized that my age is kinda irrelevant.  i think i AM a member of Generation X and further, i think Generation X stretches a lot further than people think.

near the end of the book i came across a phrase i REALLY identified with.  it was "Terminal Wanderlust."  the book defined Terminal Wanderlust as:  "a condition common to people of transient middle-class upbringings.  unable to feel rooted in any one environment, they move continually in the hopes of finding an idealized sense of community in the next location."

and as i read that i realized:  that's what i have.  that is what makes me who i am now.

the latest move i made in search of an idealized community was a few months ago when i made the move from the United States to London, England.  of course i didn't just spin a globe and land my finger on London, but the decision to move came quickly and without much need for consideration.  i knew i was going to move as sure as i knew the sun would rise the next day.  moving was the next stage of the game.

i've moved a lot in my life.  i think by a recent count i've moved 11 times since the age of eight.  at first i was forced to move with family, just a child following divorced parents and step parents around the country.  then i got a bit older and moved as an adolescent to live with a different member of my family by choice, and the stage was set.  moving was as easy as making the bed.  i moved on to live on my own, then i moved again to be in a city i thought i was better suited to.  then i moved again, having changed my mind about what city was right for me, and struck out across the country to what seemed like the most perfect location for the person i was at the time.  while there i lived in five different houses and apartments.  why?  i guess because the city was good to me, but i needed to feed my need for movement and personal upheaval.  now i have moved yet again to suit the person i am now:  married and not employed. 

it seems that making large, difficult moves is my forte.  the tiniest things in life fuck me up completely, but the biggest things of all?  no problem...

do i experience stress and anxiety from such moves?  hell yes.  no doubt.  but that's part of who i am.  i move a lot, i love to move, i hate to move, i hope to move more in the future and i know that whatever move i make next, i will complain and freak out and come close to a nervous breakdown over, but that is part of how i have to live.  the process of life for me is to constantly set-up shop in a new space, whether it is simply moving a few miles across town to a nicer duplex or moving across the Atlantic Ocean to take up residence in another country.

why do i spend my life constantly repeating an action that i know brings unrest and anxiety?  why can't i stop and settle somewhere to avoid these negative experiences? 

i have no idea. 

all i can think of to say is that this is who i am.  i am a product of my upbringing, i am a member of Generation X suffering from terminal wanderlust.  i can't commit to a career, a hairstyle, an employer, a city or even a country.  right now i'm busy trying to commit to a single person for the rest of my life and that's about as much as i can do willingly.

right now i live in a huge city where a car is not required, and i love that fact.  i love that i don't have to own a car for the first time ever.  i love the fact that i don't have to deal with any of the things that go along with having a car, like getting insurance coverage, buying gas, finding parking or worrying about someone dinging my door in a crowded parking lot.  i love not needing this thing that has been a part of my life for so long.  i love the freedom of not needing to own a vehicle.

but, do i love that feeling because it keeps me from putting down extra roots in my new surroundings?  do i love it because it makes me feel that it's even easier to pick up and move elsewhere when i decide i want to?  it would seem rational that not owning a car would make me feel MORE rooted in the place where i am because i can't drive away, but i don't see it that way.  the less i have to worry about, the easier it is to set-up shop in a new, possibly better place when i'm ready.  one less object to move, one less piece of paperwork to handle.

recently my partner and i invested in some "real" furniture.  this is something that i have never done before.  out of all the apartments and homes i have lived in and furnished in my life i have never spent significant money on anything other than a great bed, a big LCD television and some cool artwork.  i have never spent heavily on furniture because furniture is the thing that makes it really hard to move homes. 

now i own a few pieces of Danish Modern furniture that mean something to me.  they are items i love to look at, and i will not be selling them if and when i move to a new city the way i have done in the past with all of my other belongings.  so in a way i HAVE begun to root myself here in London.  i have invested in some things that i am not willing to part with.  things that are too big to check onto an airplane or fit into the trunk of a rental car. 

does this mean i have taken a step toward living in that idealized place i've longed for all my life?

probably not.

it just means that if and when i decide it's time to move again, it will cost a lot more to do it.


The London Underground (subway) map.

if anyone out there currently uses a mass transportation system in a large city to commute to and from work, i'd like to hear about your experiences. 

how do you get over the initial shock of having to walk a mile to get to the train or bus stop, then wait for the train/bus, then spend 45 minutes riding the train/bus, then walk even more to get to where your office is?

all possibly in the rain, wind or snow? 

how do you keep your shoes and clothes looking good?

more importantly, how do you do it all over again at the END of the day when you're tired and just want to eat dinner or fall asleep?

what about women?  they have to do it all in generally uncomfortable high heel shoes?

doesn't the whole process age you prematurely?

do people ever really "get used to it?"


it's time for an installment of "what's different in England." 

i won't try to tie things together in a story -- today i'm just going to talk a little bit about doing laundry here in good ol' Great Britain.

first of all, almost no one in England appears to use a TUMBLE DRYER when they do their laundry. 

what kind of dryer do they use instead, you ask? 


they hang their wet laundry on clothes lines and fold-away drying racks either indoors or outdoors like it's the god-damn Great Depression. 

i have yet to find an Englishman who can really explain why this is the case.  i grew up in America where doing laundry had two parts:  load into the washing machine to wash and transfer to the dryer to dry.  the process of doing each load of laundry took about an hour and a half, give or take.

obviously there are occasions where fabrics are delicate and should not be put in a dryer of any kind, and i follow those rules.  of course.  but i DO put my t-shirts and towels and miscellaneous clothing into the dryer so i can get them dry and put them away as easily as possible.

i have considered the fact that not using a tumble dryer when doing laundry allows people to live a more "green" lifestyle -- you know, not use up so much electricity -- and that's lovely.  but i don't think that's why the English do it.  i seriously doubt every generation of living Englishman and woman has gone green in the laundry department.  i simply don't believe there's an entire nation of modern, civilized people shunning the tumble dryer while embracing the washing machine.

frankly, it's inefficient.  it costs you time.  you can't wash something you need at the last minute because it will never dry in time, and you can't do more than one load of laundry in an afternoon because who the heck has space to hang multiple loads of laundry out on separate racks and bars all over their house? 

here you have to wait until the first clothes are totally dry before you remove them and hang up the next load.  it might take all day for a load of jeans to dry.  not to mention the air-drying method makes cotton towels stiff and wrinkles most clothing terribly, thereby REQUIRING the use of an iron on things that wouldn't NEED ironing if they'd been dried in a tumble dryer. 

you save electricity by air-drying, but then you spend some of that saving right away by using an iron for a few hours afterward.  not to mention that ironing clothes is a tedious, time-consuming task that most people would rather leave to a maid or dry cleaner.

oh, but wait -- have i mentioned that it's common in English flats to have a single-unit laundry machine that converts from washer to dryer in the same compartment?  i've used two different models of these things so far.  they are hopelessly tiny, front-loading washers that when done rinsing and spinning, start to tumble your clothes with the addition of hot air. 

the problem is, the ones i've actually used are MINISCULE.  you can't even wash a set of bed sheets in there.  you have to wash the sheets one at a time, then do the pillowcases separately too.  and there's no room for the fabric to TUMBLE dry, so even if you do go against society and attempt to "dry" something in the dryer it takes you two hours because there's no space for it to tumble around in. 

also, if you DO wait for the item(s) to get dry in the tiny dryer they will emerge more wrinkled than you can possibly imagine.  and if you have a large item (or several items) in there you can bet the stuff will emerge hopelessly tangled and twisted up as well. 

you can't win. 

i've tried doing laundry in many ways lately.  i've even used a washing machine that had to be manually filled with buckets of water for the wash cycle, then filled again for the rinse cycle.  and after all that work you still can't throw the stuff in a nice dryer and have it emerge wrinkle-free after an hour or so.  it's maddening.

maybe people here need to re-think the way they do their laundry.  perhaps they're all so wealthy that their butlers deal with hanging and ironing the laundry so they just don't care.  i don't know.  maybe if more English folks went and spent a month or two in America getting their laundry fluffed and folded in an amazingly short amount of time they'd move back to England and riot against the air-drying of laundry.  again, i don't know.

what i do know is that i didn't much like doing laundry when i lived in America, but now that i'm in England it's become a royal pain in my ass.

i have to stop writing now -- it's time to milk the cows and churn the butter.


A photo of Durban, South Africa.

i read something dismaying in the news today.

apparently Durban, South Africa -- one of the largest cities in South Africa, with a thriving tourism industry -- is seriously considering a temporary legalization of prostitution.

but wait.  WHY are they considering it?

because in the year 2010, two years from now, they are hosting the 2010 World Cup football event.


based on what i read, they are talking about legalizing prostitution "temporarily" while the football event takes place.  and that's pathetic.  why is it pathetic?  two glaring reasons spring to mind. 

first, World Cup football involves and attracts a huge number of MALES.  can men find nothing better to do with their leisure time than basically degrade and abuse women for paid sex?  is it not enough to travel to South Africa and watch world-class sports?  they have to have some prostitutes in their down-time as well?  really, guys?  REALLY?

second, and more importantly, South Africa as a nation is one of the world's hardest-hit by HIV and AIDS.  it's been estimated that there are five million people in South Africa that are HIV-positive.  and THIS is the place that thinks temporarily legalizing prostitution for the benefit of football fans is a good idea?

it is (apparently) a fact that the sex industry thrives in whatever area/city hosts a major sporting event such as the World Cup.  yes, as i've recently read, it's a fact. 

but does that make it right?

there is, of course, opposition to this proposal in Durban, but no firm decision has been made as of the time of my writing this.  it is clearly being considered, and considered seriously.

earlier this year an MP named George Lekgetho called for prostitution to be legalized during Durban's World Cup tournament and said:  "It is one of the things that would make it a success."

is the World Cup no longer a draw on its own?  will no one go unless the place also offers legal prostitution?


i read that this is not the first time legalizing prostitution has been on the table in Durban.  the concept was also proposed last year by Durban's Police Commissioner, who is no longer the police commissioner due to corruption charges.


is this the way of the future?  legally renting [mostly] young women to the highest bidder for random, degrading sex acts? 

more people should care. 

it doesn't matter that it's in South Africa, far from where we live.  people should be disturbed.


Boris Johnson, the new Mayor of London (and champion of the apathetic citizen).

i just saw another fist fight today -- in the middle of the road, about five minutes ago.

right now i am staying in the sleepy seaside town of Bridlington, England.  it is in East Riding of Yorkshire, on the coast of the North Sea.  it is a white, middle class area with a bit of depression in parts, as far as i can tell.

my partner and i were just walking back to our bungalow with a few groceries in hand.  on the block ahead of us i saw about five old teens or adults standing around.  i VERY jokingly asked my partner if we were entering some gangland territory -- a reference to the current plague of youth crime in England.  he laughed a bit along with me and we walked on.

then we got closer.

and guess what.

it was, in fact, a fight.

we decided to walk directly through the confrontation, as that was our only path home, and as we passed through it i could tell that four people were directly involved and three more were looking on at close range.  one lady was on a cell phone, presumably calling for help, but her female companion was actually giggling, as if amused.

i hope it was actually just nervous laughter on her part, as i hate to think that British people think this kind of violence is AMUSING.

as we passed through the action safely i turned around and watched as the two tallest men went at it in a hard-core fist-fight in the middle of the frigging road.  not even on the sidewalk -- the middle of the fucking road.

i paused on the sidewalk and asked my partner if we should be calling 999 (the British equivalent of 911).

he said "no -- don't involve yourself.  keep going."

it struck me as apathetic and somewhat scary.

i say scary because if that was me (or my partner) getting kicked in the head in the middle of the road i sure as hell would want a passing stranger to call the police for help.

but we didn't.  we turned our backs and kept walking, knowing that in England even Mr. Boris Johnson, the recently elected Mayor of London, advises that if you see trouble in the street you MUST turn and walk the other way.  do not EVER interfere or try to help, just get yourself away.  forget the other people, even if you know them.

this is the country i live in now.

by my count i've called 11 different U.S. cities "home" in my lifetime.  this number includes New York City and Los Angeles.  yet never once have i witnessed such violence as i have since coming to England.  if you've been reading my blogs you know that this is not the first man-on-man, down on the ground fist fight i have witnessed in my short time here, and you know i'm not happy about it.

the whole thing scares me and makes me sick at the same time.

now let's see...

how about one of you America-hating Brits out there write in and let me know exactly how your country is supposed to be better than America?  why exactly ARE you better? 

because as far as i've seen you've got a shitload of problems on your hands.


This is the most common ice cream I've seen in England.  Soft serve vanilla in a cone with something called "Flake" -- a flaky chocolate stick -- stuck into it.

i've noticed a lot of random things around England.  nothing Earth-shaking or scandalous, but some simple observations made around different English towns on different days.

for example, if you're in a restaurant and you order a Diet Coke, you will likely get a relatively small glass of soda with no ice in it.  pretty much everyone knows about the no-ice part, but i didn't really know about the tiny-glass part until recently...  me and my big American expectations, eh?

conflicting with the little-glass soda phenomenon is the latte overload.  recently i was in Haworth, West Yorkshire at a little pub called Haworth Old Hall.  my partner and i ordered lattes.  when the lattes came to the table they were satisfyingly large and accompanied by a bowl of brown and white sugar lumps, four foil-wrapped chocolate mints and two individually-wrapped biscuits (aka "cookies").  when i was done with lunch i ordered a second latte, and that came out with yet another chocolate mint and one more cookie.

why do the English skimp on soda, yet live so large in the latte department?  i do not know.  the principles of cost and profit would surely agree that it is cheaper for a restaurant or pub to give a larger glass of soda than it is to automatically add multiple mints, cookies and sugars to every latte ordered.

or would they?

something else i've noted in public places around England is the Dyson "Air Blade" hand dryer in the bathrooms.  these are pure genius.  inserting your hand(s) activates the Dyson dryer on the wall.  a crazy strong "blade" of air shoots out and you slowly withdraw your wet hands like you would a wet car passing through the drying phase of a drive-thru car wash.  the air blows so strongly that one pass through the dryer and your hands are undeniably dry.  i may be weird for getting excited about something like efficient paper-towel-free hand drying in public bathrooms, but hey -- it's exciting.  every public bathroom in the world should have one.

i won't bother thinking about how much ENERGY is required to power those things.  i'm sure it's a lot.

the other day i ate lunch at a McDonald's during a food break on a road trip.  it has been a while since i've eaten fast food and i will admit i was giddy at the idea that i sort-of "had to" eat McDonald's (nevermind the healthy bagel and sandwich shop across the way).  i had a chicken sandwich meal -- with a Diet Coke.  i know, i know, what was the point of having a diet drink when i was eating french fries?  i have no idea.  ANYWAY...  the soda was served with zero ice and the soda was room-temperature -- not even chilled.  so much for consistency within large, franchised operations. 

but it wasn't really the soda that i noticed.  it was the eerie eater's high i felt after consuming the meal.  i actually FELT HIGH.  i did not feel guilty about the shit food i'd just eaten -- i felt DAMN GOOD.

that is probably cause for concern, but it won't put me off having more McDonald's -- should the "need" arise.

another thing i've noticed is that British dogs look different from American dogs.  i don't know why this is.  perhaps it's just that different breeds are more popular here than there, so the dogs in general look a little different.  i don't know -- the differences seem more subtle than that.  all i know is, British dogs look more exotic to me.  i imagine that somewhere during their days they have little breaks where they drink black tea and nibble on cucumber sandwiches.

and speaking of cucumbers, let's talk about "salad" in England.  i have noticed that often a restaurant serving a dish such as fish 'n' chips (my new favorite thing) will sometimes include a small side salad on the plate.  this salad is generally a few pieces of Iceberg lettuce topped with some watercress or perhaps a single slice of tomato.  no salad dressing is provided or offered.  i have started eating this relatively pathetic pile of bland green stuff out of guilt over the giant piece of deep-fried haddock that comes with it.

another thing that is different to me is the overall appearance of teenagers.  it seems that despite the solid fact that knife crime is prevalent amongst male, English teens, most teenaged boys look fresh-faced and clean with rosy cheeks and lips -- more like children than teens in many cases. 

conversely, the female teens look H-A-R-S-H.  i don't know why this is.  their make-up is heavy and deliberate, but not in a hip way.  their hair is also very deliberately styled, but this "deliberate" isn't so good.  i kinda get the feeling that some of them don't bathe very often.  once again, i don't know why this is.  all i know is they could learn a lesson or two from the girls of Los Angeles -- or even the girls of Red Bank, New Jersey.  cheaply applied fake tan and clumpy black mascara looks bad on any girl.  i especially don't understand the tanning part.  we're in a cloudy, relatively cold country nowhere near a proper beach -- are we supposed to think that they've ALL just been on holiday to a weird, warm place where the sun imparts an orange-brown foundation to their skin?  surely there's some beautiful, creamy pale skin under there? 

i've also noticed that Brits LOVE ice cream cones in the "Summer."  even when it's cold and windy they flock to ice cream carts or shops for frozen treats in cones or on sticks.  this goes for children aged eight or elderly couples well over 80.  i've seen possibly a hundred such people eating soft-serve vanilla ice cream outdoors when it was WAY too cold for it, usually with something called "Flake" stuck in it.  they frequently wear tank tops and flip-flops at the same exact time that i'm freezing my arse off, cursing the wind and wishing i had a sweatshirt. 

the British Summer is indeed different from any American Summer i've known.

indeed, the British Everything is different from the Everything i've ever known.


today i want to take a moment to make Americans feel a little better about what they're paying per gallon for gasoline these days.

you see, the situation is a little worse in England.

yesterday at the local (Flamborough, England) petrol station the petrol (aka "gas") cost £1.229 per liter.  you should note here that i say LITER, not gallon, and that it's not per dollar, but per British POUND. 

if i take one liter and convert it into a fraction of a gallon, then do the multiplication required i get £4.79 per gallon.  but wait, that's still not dollars.  the strength of the U.S. dollar is poor here in England.  in fact, it's worth exactly HALF of what it's worth in the States.  so take that £4.79 and multiply it by two and THAT number will be how many U.S. dollars it costs to purchase a gallon of unleaded gas here in England.

what is that number in dollars? 

$9.59 per gallon.

i hope that makes you Americans out there feel a little better about filling up your tanks today.  and if it doesn't, at least let it serve as a warning for those of you considering taking a roadtrip in Great Britain this summer.


today i'm going to talk a bit about British food, drink and condiments.  i say "a bit" because the amount of stuff i could potentially write about is gigantic. 

let me start off by saying that it is not my intention to give negative criticism to British food.  i know that British food has a relatively poor reputation in some areas, but really all i'm focusing on is how some things differ from their American counterparts.

the first photo above is of condiment packets that came off a table in a restaurant where i had lunch today (clearly said restaurant has a contract with Heinz).  i took a photo of the condiments in order to point out a few things:  first, for you Americans, there's Heinz "Brown Sauce."  i've been seeing bottles of this Brown Sauce in the grocery store near the ketchup and have been wondering exactly what the suspiciously obvious-named sauce is.  "it's just Brown Sauce," my British partner says.  "you put it on sausages, meats... you might have it on your bacon and eggs."

i was curious and skeptic about this Brown Sauce, so today i opened a packet and tasted it.  and guess what.  it tastes exactly like American BBQ sauce.  it's brown in color (surprise.) and has the tangy-ness of an average, somewhat bland BBQ sauce.  an American would not know the difference if it was slathered on their ribs or chicken, but still, this is not called BBQ sauce.  it's just "Brown Sauce."

moving on to the next few interesting packets...  let's talk about the one called "Salad Cream."  this, too, i have wondered about in the grocery store.  it's located next to the mayonnaise on the shelf.  so, again, today i decided to taste some.  and guess what:  this Salad Cream is simply watery mayonnaise.  it's not like Ranch dressing or Bleu Cheese dressing -- it's just watery mayo.  and people here squeeze it onto their otherwise healthy green salads.  yikes.

then there was Tartare Sauce and Mint Sauce.  these are obviously in demand due to the slightly different meat-eating habits of the British.  in Great Britain LAMB is a very popular meat.  it's on pretty much every menu and there's a big lamb section in the meat aisle at every grocery store.  this preponderance of lamb leads to packets of Mint Sauce being at every table -- something you probably wouldn't find in many American joints.  the other obvious thing is that FISH is a lot more common in these parts, with Fish 'n' Chips being ubiquitous.  this fish-filled nation requires bottles of Malt Vinegar on every table next to the standard salt and pepper, and Tartare Sauce for the fish -- hence the presence of yet another condiment packet.

Heinz must be making a killing.

one other thing to point out is the presence of two different types of mustard packets:  "English Mustard" and "French Mustard."  since i don't know the difference between the two i again tasted them for myself.  it turns out that English Mustard is simply the bright yellow stuff we Americans call mustard.  the French Mustard, upon opening the packet, promptly thumbed its nose at me, straightened its beret and lit a long-handled cigarette.

just kidding.

the French Mustard was light brown in color and tasted like what Americans would probably call Dijon mustard.

so today i saw nine of Heinz 57's sauces.  more than i've ever seen.  what the other 48 might be i have no idea.  perhaps i'll move to the Pacific Rim someday and see if some of them are hanging out in a noodle shop or sushi bar.

the second photo above is obviously of cereal.  the only reason i took it is because in England right next to the raisins they have an almost identical dried fruit called "sultanas."  you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between sultanas and raisins in a blind taste test.  they are so similar in fact that there is cereal here called "Sultana Bran" -- i'll take a leap and figure it tastes a lot like American Raisin Bran.

the third and final photo in today's entry is of some soda bottles i saw on the grocery store shelf.  i thought i knew enough about the world to understand the basic flavors of soft drinks, but i was wrong.  here we have the "Shandy" soda and the Dandelion and Burdock flavored soda.


it turns out that in this case Shandy is a carbonated soda of lemonade and beer mixed together.  yes, i said BEER.  after taking this photo i heard Shandy actually ordered in the aforementioned restaurant and eavesdropped as the lady ordering was asked if she'd like her Shandy with lager or bitter (two very different types of beer).  sometimes Shandy has very little beer in it, and yes, kids drink it.  in the restaurant scenario, however, the gal ordering it was ID-ed before she could have it.

i haven't had the pleasure of tasting Dandelion and Burdock soda yet, but i am told it's like cola with more after-taste.  "a bit more cough-syrupy than cola, but in a nice way," to quote my British partner.  i'm not sure about this description, but i'll check into it and let you know.

i think that's about all for today.  i'll have to head back out to the store with my camera again before my next installment.



Elaine:  I will never understand people.

Jerry:  They're the worst.

i have a hate-hate relationship with the general public.  it's just the people i don't actually KNOW -- you know, the strangers i encounter in public in everyday life in a grocery store or riding the tube or walking down a sidewalk.  they all seem to be assholes, you see.  i often feel guilty and anti-social about feeling this way, but the above exchange from an old Seinfeld episode makes me feel a little less...  alone in my feeling.

not too long ago (when i lived there) i thought people in Los Angeles were assholes.  not my friends, of course, but the larger, general population.  the sea of aggressive faces behind the wheels of the latest Mercedes sedan or more likely BMW sedan (BMW drivers were always the worst on the road, possibly because they were secretly envious of the Mercedes drivers and trying to prove something to the rest of the city).  but it wasn't just people in traffic -- it was the people who bumped into you on Rodeo Drive without saying excuse me.  the folks who stood in an elevator riding with you for 13 flights and never cracked a smile or even a nod.  that sort.

but i had no idea what was in store for me when i got to London.  people simply don't look at you.  no one in London makes eye contact.  ever.  people shove into you on the street and don't say excuse me.  people hover over grocery shelves with their shopping trolleys for prolonged periods of time blocking your access to the mustard or eggs without bothering to make room for other shoppers.  they knock your purse off your shoulder or kick your suitcase without apologizing, and even better, most of the time they have seem to have liquor on their breath.

i assumed this was a plague of the city -- any city -- but it turns out i was wrong.

yesterday i was in a West Yorkshire-area Tesco.  Tesco is a large, well-stocked chain grocery store here in England -- like Ralphs in California -- and West Yorkshire is a pleasant, quiet part of England with rolling green hills and moors dotted with sheep and cows.  i was in Tesco buying some filet mignon, accompanying fresh vegetables and the ingredients for a homemade cherry pie.

when i got to the register there was just one person in line in front of me.  super, i thought.  it was a middle-aged white woman in a Rolling Stones t-shirt.  she had a cart.  in the cart were about a dozen bottles of low-level champagne.  she started putting them on the conveyor belt.  since the belt was rather long, my partner and i started stacking our purchases on another, totally separate, area of the conveyor belt.  before we were even finished doing this the woman in front of us grabbed one of the grocery "separators" and slammed it down right on the edge of where our food started.  she then used the separator to shove back all of our food even further away from the register, knocking a few items over in the process.

umm...  excuse me?

the important thing to point out is that the woman was only buying the aforementioned dozen bottles of champagne.  they were already being placed on the conveyor belt and she had a few feet (literally) of extra room between the end of her precious cheap champagne and the beginning of our pile of food.  why did she feel the need to crush our food and shove it so far away from "her" part of the conveyor belt? 

because even when you're in the countryside -- even when you're in the north of England in a tiny village of a town -- people are assholes.

i won't even go into how long the woman took to PAY for her stinking champagne.  i'll just say that i stood there in line, seething.  which seems to happen almost every time i leave the house these days.  i admittedly end-up seething mad over the behavior of a total stranger who has acted rude for no reason.  i stood there.  and i seethed.  i stared directly at the woman's face for a long time, hoping she was about to have the balls to look at me back, where she would see how ready to fight i was.

but she didn't look at me.  because NO ONE looks at ANYONE anymore.  it's much easier for people to go about their business of being fuckheads if they keep their eyes averted and avoid being reminded that they're treating their fellow man like garbage for no reason.

this is not unique to England, America, London or Los Angeles.  this is a breakdown in western society.  too many people live in bubbles, and to each man or woman, their own personal bubble is all that exists or matters.  the concept of smiling or speaking to a stranger is utterly foreign, and this is not healthy for human beings on the whole.  it creates a global army of apathetic jerkoffs.  people who have become so into themselves that they can't even smile unless the recipient of said smile is someone they already know or need -- they can't say "pardon me" after they're barreled into you, perhaps unless they've done it in front of a large crowd of disapproving folks.

i have a lot more to say on this topic but i'll leave it at that.  if you want to get away from assholes you're going to have to do a lot more than go on vacation in the country.  you might have to join the NASA space exploration program.

and to the woman in the Stones t-shirt at Tesco who shoved my food?  if i see you again i'll kick you in the god-damned throat. 

and no, i'm not over-reacting.


West-Yorkshire, England

i have a lot of anxiety.  in fact, you might call me the honorary queen of anxiety.  i have it for no specific reason and it never leaves.  most of you who know me already know this.  you may also know that to combat said anxiety i have tried many things both natural and pharmaceutical.  pharmaceutical being the favored child.

over the years of remedy-seeking and trigger identifying i have noted that my anxiety on any given day mainly saves itself up for the last hour of my day (aka "bed-time").  in the past my "bed-time" regularly varied from around 11:00pm to maybe 4:30am -- or perhaps once every two days, depending on the current job and living situation.  but regardless of what hour bed-time comes, that hour will be the hour during which my anxiety hits its peak for the day.

i have, however, noticed that for the last four nights i have gone to sleep smoothly and soundly with very little winding down required.  i have, in fact, slept entirely through the night all the way to a mid-morning alarm (something my previously insomnia-riddled body and mind is unfamiliar with).  and i know exactly why i'm sleeping so well:  i am away in the country -- and i am not watching television.

if you'd have suggested to me in past years that my sleep issues might subside if only i would move out of the city, i would've laughed at you -- that certainly was not the cause.  my need to be immersed in cluttered culture had nothing to do with my anxiety or sleep trouble.  likewise, if you had suggested i would feel better if i just spent a day or two not watching TV or back-to-back DVDs of The Simpsons, i would've thought you quite ridiculous.  after all, nothing makes me feel BETTER than watching repeats of Lisa Simpson half-closing her eyes in disgust and uttering words like "specious" and "apt."

but while there is no one remedy, perhaps the combination of several failed ideas yields one successful one.  leave home, get out of the city AND stay away from the TV at the same time.  it seems simple enough.  i am not at home -- i am currently amongst the quiet hills of West Yorkshire, England -- and the supply of company and intelligent conversation has lured me away from the TV entirely.  i have spent several nights in a row eating, drinking, talking and -- wait for it -- READING. 

and my sleep has never been better.

to be purely honest i'll admit we tried to Tivo an episode of The Simpsons, but we didn't set it right and it didn't record, so I honestly have not watched a single program, not even random world news.

so there it is.  the answer to your generalized anxiety and sleep trouble.  leave your home, go stay in the country somewhere, totally avoid turning on a TV -- and perhaps throw in a few chapters of book-reading.

how many people ACTUALLY have the luxury of being able to do that?  not many.  not to mention the fact that if you DO leave home, wherever you stay will eventually BECOME home, thus requiring you to keep moving.  so it may not be the perfect (nor permanent) remedy for your poor sleep and anxiety, but for a few days you may be able to decrease your usual dose of Whateverzepam by a milligram or two.

i don't think one needs to feel "normal" every day, but being reminded of what it feels like every once in a while?  that's cool.