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Sunday November 10, 2002, 04:08

Three thirty and the streets are alive1. Even Paris wasn't like this. We rolled into Bilbao at a little past eleven in the evening after driving from, well, somewhere in France. It's hard to keep everything straight after only a week into the trip.

Oh.

So I am leaving London. Actually, I have left and, for a week now, have been traveling through Europe. Almost as quickly as I moved there, my time is done and I am returning to New York. It was inevitable, really. After all, without being able to find work, staying was going to begin to be a problem (after all, one of the main reasons for living in London, or anywhere in Europe, really, is to be in Europe, and if entry into a country is going to start posing problems from a customs perspective, then one might as well not bother) and with the opposite being true (that is, not being able to find work for not being legal to stay), there really was no way that I could stay longer than my allotted six months as a tourist2.

Out with a bang though? Considering the disruption being caused is not only to my own life, but to the life of my girlfriend who too is moving away from London (where she was working and was, in fact, the only reason for my being in London in the first place) and also considering the vacation that was subsequently procured by said girlfriend upon her relocation from London back to New York (that is, my home, her former and now soon-to-be-once-again home) it was decided that a trip was to be undertaken.

Which leads us to here. Now. In Bilbao. Where now, twenty minutes later, the streets are a bit quieter. Well, not quite. The thing is that I probably have a lot to answer for, not having produced anything of substance in this space over the course of the past month. I suppose that there is the argument that could be made that really, from sitting alone each day, staring at the same wall and at the same screen, writing the same code for the same client, that nothing much happens. The morning commute consists of a stagger and a slide from bed to shower to corner shop for a yogurt back to desk. Actually, the commute consists of walk to station with afore mentioned girlfriend who has actual place of work separate from place of sleep and who plies me with coffee as a bribe for accompanying her to the Tube. Beyond that, external influences are those that can be seen from looking out the window or, on rare occasion, from walking down the street.

Chance meetings are rare. Meetings in pre-determined places are less rare. Becoming a "regular" means something more when it is some of the only human interaction one is able to extract from a day. The girl at the photo developing shop left a few weeks before I, on a trip of her own. Her name? I could not even hazard a guess, but to say that she is Australian and is probably home at this point. I hope she had as much fun as I am having. The man at the dry cleaners is still in London, running his shop. On the last day he gave me a two pound discount on two shirts, an indication that he might actually miss seeing me walk into his shop to drop off, pick up, and exchange a bit of banter.

I never did get his name either.

And so I look forward to returning to my home. Where my interactions are with people with whom I have been speaking and interacting for many years. On a more personal level. For while I was tempted to ask the Aussie at the photo shop to coffee, I never did, and now I will never know what she was doing in England, and what she plans on doing in the future.

Live in the now, to be sure, but hold tight to the future. It will come around soon enough3.



1. In this case, alive means that there are large groups of men wandering the streets, singing loudly. Upon encountering two women huddled under an umbrella, one of the men approaches the women and starts talking to them. He has a beer in his hand and they shy away from him. He is aggressive. Another man approaches, cornering the women. They walk away from what is a growing circle of men, only to encounter the remaining half-dozen men in the group who are probably harmless on this busy street, but still intimidating. The women duck around the group and hurry off while the men remain on the street, shouting and singing. I watch from my window on the second floor of the hotel, looking down at the street.

2. Which isn't to say that I haven't found plenty to do with myself while in London and that, truth be told, I found myself running out of time to do all of the touirsty things that I was supposed to do, having pushed them aside for what an only be considered "work" (which is to say, jobs that serve to finance the trip that is the cause of my writing from a hotel in Bilbao to begin with).

3. Specifically, December 20th, which is when I will return to New York, which is when I will re-engage more regularly with what is considered my normal life and when I might actually get around to responding to more of my email. Tonight, tonight is a fluke. Bilbao was a wonderful surprise and for only ten euro more than what we were spending in Paris we get a spacious room, television, and free Internet access (with a computer running Windows XP in Spanish, which is both funny and hard to use). Highly recommended if you ever find yourself wanting to stay in Bilbao. Petit Palace Arana

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