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Friday June 21, 2002, 12:47

The helicopter has finally stopped flying overhead indicating that it's either lunchtime or that the rabid football fans, turning to violence after the loss of their team to Brazil, have all decided to just drink themselves to death. After all, it was the conversation next to me this morning as I stood outside the pub watching the match that went something like this:

"How can you start drinking at seven in the morning?"

"Well, if they keep playing like this..."

It is my goal to find a pub in which to watch the USA-Germany match that this country will probably be ignoring. The nice thing about it is that there will probably just be the standard amount of vomit on the streets this evening given the circumstances. National pride is somewhat quelled by your team getting booted out in the quarters. On the other hand, they made it that far, and The Times this morning ran two columns, one for victory and one for defeat. Seems that they weren't going to get stuck with a "Dewey Wins" situation on their hands. Then again, were they really going to beat Brazil? I'm surprised I haven't heard more hollering in the streets from the green and yellow fans out there. I guess they're probably all worried about getting their heads pummeled. Oh, also, I suppose the fact that it's not yet noon on a Friday means something too. I mean, I know everyone kicks off early in this country, but that would be a bit ridiculous.

Concerns of the moment for me are a bit less drastic I wager. First of all, I am in perpetual fear that my mouse will fall off of the side of my desk. I suppose that, if I were particularly savvy, I could move the entire arrangement a couple of inches to my left, thus allowing more desk-space on the right and thus preventing (or at least lessening the chance of) the fall of my little rodent friend. The problem is, however, the location of the table leg of this leaf of the dining table that I use as a workspace that falls conveniently between my legs at the moment and allows for a more comfortable writing position than if I was attempting to occupy that same space with my one of my legs. Instead of the space between them. Which I am not.

The helicopter is back, and I turn to the web in an attempt to find footage of a mad hoard of footballers playing hookey from work and tearing through Trafalgar Square, overturning automobiles and taunting the police. I find nothing and assume that there must be a traffic jam on the M4 or something.

I suppose the only problem with any of my plans right now is that, checking my pockets, I only seem to have eight pence on me, after purchasing a bagel at the local Bagelmania (89p) and milk at the local off-license (48p). Which means, yes, that I did start out my day with 1.47 GBP, which isn't really advisable in this city that has the among the highest cost of living in the world. That 1.47 translates into $2.20 does not exactly set my mind at ease, as the work that I don't have1 doesn't pay me in dollars. Or rather, would if I did, but doesn't since I don't.

Despite all of this, I managed to have a fairly inexpensive couple of days, beginning with the day that I opted not to leave the flat until evening, at which point I ventured forth into the city to experience it, not as a passive observer, but as an active observer and group participant in a large, city-wide skate through the south-west of London. It is quite a site to behold several hundred skaters plowing through the streets of London, stopping traffic and cheering at passers-by and stalled motorists. Even more when it is realized that this type of event a) happens at least twice weekly and b) did not damage my knee as much as, say, a jog through Regents Park might (and did). Also, it was free. Follow that with a day in which I was reminded exactly why it is good to be a freelancer as I went out at 3pm to see an afternoon (and cheap!) showing of Monsters, Inc. and a small tub of popcorn that cost more than the movie itself but which was, as popcorn always is, enjoyed immensely. Today I plan on staying in again, but for some errands and the aforementioned viewing of the USA-Germany game, assuming I can go somewhere on the cheap.

Interesting note on personal disposition: while the daily ennui of being displaced into a foreign country, outside of known routine and outside of familiar acquaintances, is countered with the daily thrill of being displaced into a foreign country and getting to talk about it incessantly, it is the morning caffeine buzz kicking in while a warm shower cleans the filth of the previous day that can truly get my mind reeling about all the world has to offer. Additionally, the introduction of new faces and new conversation into the mix is often a catalyst that prompts me to see the current situation as an opportunity rather than a hindrance. Just as the career motivation I give to a lawyer friend will hold less value than that of a fellow lawyer, simply for my standing outside of that scope of experience, so too does the encouragement given to me by trusted friends hold less value than that of total strangers. While I, in the former case, am not close enough to act as any authority, the stranger in the latter situation is able to at least present the illusion of, if actual, objectivity. Friends are expected to provide encouragement and comfort, but strangers are not presumed to do so, and so their contributions can be more blindly accepted, though it might be the same as those already heard from a closer source. Perspective is key. That said, coffee does also play an important role, as does the knowing smile of the man behind the counter2, even when he is not the one serving the coffee du jour.

Any further attempt to ruminate on the inner workings of my mind and the extent to which my disposition is affected by the presence of people and/or legal stimulants will be saved for another time as the game comes on and I make way way out into the world.



1. Interestingly, I do in fact have a paying project right now, but it is either the stigma that I currently attach to not having a full-time job (and notably that I feel as though I have been on something of a year-and-half-plus-long vacation, having done freelance work for quite some time now and being put in a situation where I can not get a legitimate job here) or simply the belief that if I do not do something quite extraordinary with my life in the next couple of years that it (where "it" is being defined as my very existence) will be all for naught.

There is a theory popular among people who like to think to much that the problem with the current batch of people just out of college and a couple of years beyond is that they have struck out in something of a confusing time. Their predecessor's predecessors came from an era where one would leave college, perhaps head on to graduate school or perhaps enter the work place, and work up from the bottom, loathing their jobs as their parents did before them, and learning to make a career of doing whatever it is that they find themselves doing. Then come these hot-shots (the predecessors that are mentioned earlier) who enter a brave new world (to use a tired phrase that would be, if this was to be at all edited, edited straight out of the copy) of the so-called "Information Age" who are given a playing field that has not been touched and who are able to capitalize on a situation about which most of the established players know nothing about. So all of a sudden we have a situation in which a core of people, young people, inexperienced people, intelligent people, are able to make a whole lot of money and be extremely successful (both in business and in whatever social circle it is in which they operate) with the combination of hard work and a lot of luck doing, and this is the key, the thing about which they are most excited in the whole entire world.

Cut ahead a couple of years to the next group of people who are now living in the shadow of what they see as something of a short-lived but very Golden Age. The snappy new idea does not fly any more as people become tight-fisted once again after having been burned on new, but particularly poorly-planned, ideas and the solution, it seems, is to once again flock back to school or into the drab, boring workplace to find a job and career that one is to loathe. The problem, of course, is the case of having almost touched "it." At having been living on just the edge of something great and being able to play the "what-if" game ad nauseum. "What if I had quit school and gone to work?" "What if I had found the one company that was going to make it?" "What if I had found the one killer app that was bought by HugeCo?" Ad nauseum, right? Having been bombarded with the promise of riches and the ability to work for something great, to be a part of something actually, legitimately, great, and to have that snatched away and to be told that the path to glory (and, in no small part, riches) lies instead in being part of the corporate machine and a 401k is akin to death.

Then again, while "eighty percent of success is showing up" (Woody Allen), the other twenty has got to be having the chutzpah to actually do something great, instead of thinking about it all the time. Which is why, of course, there will always be room in the machine for one more cog, and there will always be someone muscling their way to the top. It just so happens that the path is not as rosy as it looked for a little while.

2. It is with great shame that I note that the local coffee vendor and local coffee shop are none other than the hated and oft insensitive (on 9/11, it is reported that a Starbucks manager charged an ambulance corp $130 for water and have more recently retracted this supposedly insensitive ad that, though I personally see no harm in it, might be detrimental to a company's already dragging public image) Starbucks. I offer no excuse to my globalization-loathing friends other than to say that I tried the coffee at the local shop around the corner and it pales in comparison, from its styrofoam cup to watery consistency. When I return to New York I will return to the bodega and/or deli coffee that I have come to love, but until then, it's a tall filter coffee for me. Could be worse. Could be a Venti Decaf Soy Latte with an extra shot of Espresso.

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