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Tuesday May 21, 2002, 23:37

My life operates in very neat little bundles these days, facilitated by the fact that I do not have any particular responsibilities or schedule that I need to follow. Thus, I can be certain that all of my daily activities are, in fact, decided upon and directed by me and not for or by anybody else. What this also means is that I need to make sure that I, as my own activities director, am always kept busy or I end up sitting around the house feeling particularly upset that I have sat around the house for an entire day without having accomplished anything at all, let alone anything of note. To that end, today I went to look at concrete.

I spent a good half an hour this morning planning out the best possible route for me to take in my day's activities which would include, in no particular order, an exhibit on concrete, collection of my photos from one of the local photo development facilities, lunch at a vegetarian fast food joint that would, undoubtedly, not give me enough ketchup, the purchasing of a photo album or two at a particularly trendy and only slightly overpriced Japanese housewares and clothing store and a meeting with a theatre company that might need my help. It was entirely a question of balancing the most efficient path between all of these activities (which would conveniently bring me in a large loop beginning and ending at home) with the fact that I did not want to eat lunch at noon, which was when the photos would be available (the photos being collected at a lab just down the street from the lunch venue and the Japanese retailer). The plan had almost come to completion when I realized that it was Tuesday, not Wednesday, and that my meeting was not until tomorrow.

The walking aspect to this plan had to come into consideration because my knee, which I must have damaged during my attempt at exercise and to which I must have done additional damage during my lovely hike in the country1 has been acting quite peculiarly lately, feeling something like someone has given my entire left leg a "dead arm" (or, in this case, "dead leg") which is only exacerbated by constant movement (much like one will experience when one is walking). As I had wasted plenty of time with my planning of my day's excursion, I decided to head out anyway, hoping that the tide of the day would carry me in the most appropriate of ways throughout my journey.

As luck would have it, I found myself walking in the direction of the concrete exhibit at the Royal Institute of British Architects (or RIBA, as it is affectionately known in the architecture world). Not wanting to stand in the way of fate, I allowed myself to continue walking in that direction and, finding myself at the entrance, allowed myself to walk inside and up the stairs to the exhibit. My leg was beginning to show signs of wear, but a powerful yet versatile building material awaited, and I would not be deterred. The first part of the show was quite boring, with slabs of concrete bolted to the wall and a mid-80s era video extolling the virtues of said building material in our every day life. One thing of note, for me at least, was the recognition of buildings that I had studied in my undergraduate days in the architecture class that I spent most of the semester sleeping through. I did remember Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Church (built of concrete) and was rather pleased with the knowledge that my college years live on in some way in the far reaches of my brain.

The second part of the exhibit was a bit more interesting, featuring more practical (or at least more tangible) uses of concrete including the loop chair and table, various bits of jewelry, fountains and the like. More to the point, the second part of the show featured things that I could actually play with and touch, and given that all of the descriptions of the pieces were all included in a book accompanying the exhibit and not on plaques attached to them, reading a page and a half about the building featured in a photograph was less captivating than being able to sit and read about the very chair in which I was sitting. The show was curated quite well, overall, but failed in its ability to truly engage me as an audience member. Good to know for my non-future in museum work.

Having had my fill of concrete and realizing that it was not, in fact, Wednesday (and thus leaving me with one less item on my list) I set out again in the direction of my photographs and lunch. In my last lunch experience at this particular fast food restaurant, I was hard pressed to get more than one packet of ketchup, let alone enough of the good stuff to actually accompany my entire meal. This time, ready for a fight, I approached the counter to get my food.

"Hi," I said, forcefully, "could I get a few more packets of ketchup?"

She looked at me and chuckled. "Are you American," she asked.

"Why yes I am," I replied, hoping that "Of course not, I'm Canadian" was not the correct answer in this situation.

"Ah," she said, knowingly.

"We sure like our ketchup, don't we?" I asked, comfortable in this newfound camaraderie.

"You certainly do."

I walked away with three packets of ketchup, knowing that this would be enough, but not wanting to push my luck any further. As I completed the ketchup I approached the counter once again, and requested a glass of water and more ketchup. She handed me two more packets as if to say "well this should hold you, you savage beast!" and I completed my meal with the knowledge that it takes five neat little packets of ketchup to satisfy a small order of fries.

Reference: ketchup photo journal

1. While the town of Farnham is just a little farther away from London than my home town is from New York City, there is nothing in my home town that resembles the remains of an abbey that was closed in the sixteenth century that can be found in Farnham. Truth be told, there is not much in the United States that can be found that is as old as the ruins of the abbey that we sat in last Saturday, soaking in the sun of an unusually warm afternoon, staring up at the clouds. Part of me feels that during my time here, I should be filling each of my days with the exploration of things that I can not experience back at home. There is another part of me, however, that feels that my life should be filled with the enjoyment of simply living a life that I have known in a new environment, shaping it to fit how it will. Photo reference.

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