Monday, December 22, 2014

What Time Is It?

Allow me to answer that question. Here, in Michigan, it's 5:41 a.m. But I've already been awake for about three hours, because at home in London it's 10:42 a.m. and I'd be well on my way to lunch by now. My body has no idea what's going on.

Dave and I endured a seemingly interminable day of travel with many minor roadblocks, erected as if to test our resolve. The Heathrow Express train from Paddington was delayed early in the morning, so we shared a cab with an Australian guy who was going to the airport to pick up his wife. (The taxi was slower, but we wound up paying about the same amount per person.) Dave's bag was too heavy to check for free, so we had to hurriedly redistribute some items while standing at the check-in counter, which later led to Dave's shampoo bottle leaking in my suitcase. Then our flight was delayed, and we got into Chicago so late that we had to be re-booked on a later connection to Detroit. Then that flight had maintenance issues and we had to be switched to another plane. So, yeah, crazy.

On top of all that, terrible food, bad movies and antiquated entertainment systems on the overseas flight -- and Dave and I didn't sit together on either plane.

But my bitching is finished now -- it really is -- because I had some positive experiences too. I watched the one good movie available, "Love is Strange" with John Lithgow and Alfred Molina -- and it was so good that I want to rent it again when we get back to London so Dave can watch it. And then, on the short flight from Chicago to Detroit, I got spontaneously switched to first class, without even asking! (Dave, alas, did not.) The dryly wisecracking flight attendant happily made me the best gin & tonic in the world, in a real glass! I hadn't had any alcohol on the transatlantic flight because we left in the morning, so that G&T was the perfect coda to my 21-hour day.

Flying into Detroit, I could look down on the starry gridwork of nighttime suburban streets and see colorful Christmas lights on the houses. It was cool.

Dave's dad picked us up and we had dinner with Dave's parents last night -- ribs and sauerkraut, which seems very midwestern. (My vegetarian tendencies will be taking a back seat for the next two weeks, I'm sure!) Now it's time to settle in and get over this jet lag.

(Photo: Airport Jesus blesses all the travelers at Heathrow! Actually it's just one of many travel posters along a long hallway, depicting the statue atop Corcovado in Rio.)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Off to Michigan

Well, as you can imagine, things have been a bit of a whirlwind around here. I was out photographing yesterday (35 streets!), as well as doing laundry and packing and watering plants and cleaning the floor and a bunch of other things. Dave is still coughing but feeling better overall. And this morning, bright and early, we're taking wing.

I'll keep posting through our trip!

(Photo: A lonely-looking yard ornament in Neasden, on Friday.)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sexy Nurse Mona

Well, it's done. Olga is off at the kennels and the house seems strangely quiet. It's kind of nice, actually, knowing I don't have to walk her this morning! The parting wasn't hugely dramatic -- she panted in the taxi on the way there, her anxious "What are we doing?" pant, and she followed us with her eyes as we left the kennel office. But I'm sure the minute we closed the door she was on to other things. She'll be moved out to the country near High Wycombe. I told her she was going to "Christmas camp."

I spent yesterday afternoon on photography. I'd planned to work on finishing NW1 and NW3, but as it turns out we got volunteers to do those areas, so I turned my attention back to NW10. I went up to Neasden and finished another 29 streets before I had to skedaddle back home to help drop off Olga.

I found this bottle on my walk. At one time it contained "alcool sanitar," which is rubbing alcohol in the Romanian language, I learned with a little research. The wildly sexist label cracks me up -- alluring Nurse Mona, with her knee hiked up and her uniform unbuttoned.

("You got to laugh to keep from cryin'," as one of my coworkers used to say. It's a phrase that comes in handy.)

Work-wise, yesterday was uneventful. I bought some small gifts for my coworkers on the way to school -- nuts and dried fruit and chocolate gift mixes. I took down the holiday tree and discarded the dog penis chain. (Needless to say, no one ever noticed that. It remains our private joke.)

I'll be back out with the camera again today, hitting a few more NW10 streets before coming home to pack. I'm not a complicated packer!

(Top photo: Houses in Neasden, yesterday.)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Separation Anxiety

Olga is off to the kennel this evening. I have terrible guilt every time she looks at me with those bright brown eyes, all curled up on the couch -- a "bovine croissant," as we call her. Wagging her tail, so obviously cozy and happy. I think, "Oh, you poor dog. You have no idea."

Of course, she'll be fine once we drop her off. I have no doubt she'll turn her attention to matters at hand and live entirely in the moment, as dogs apparently do. This is a good kennel, the gold standard from what I can tell -- we're certainly paying gold standard rates -- and she's been there before and knows the guy who's in charge. But the moment of our farewell will be hard.

Dave is staying home again today in an effort to beat his chest cold. I'll be working until noon, and then I'm going to walk home and wind my way through Belsize Park, shooting some stray streets for Bleeding London. I spent much of yesterday highlighting maps of the NW3 and NW1 postcodes showing which streets still need coverage, so I've done my research and I think I can pick most of them off today and tomorrow. (Oh, yeah, and I have to pack at some point.)

We had a holiday gathering at work last night. I stayed just long enough to hear the staff choir sing (sans me, since I dropped out after our Thanksgiving concert) and to have a beer and rub elbows with a couple of people. Just see and be seen, you know? Dave, of course, couldn't come, so I was there as his proxy, too.

The library continued to experience a pounding pace of business yesterday. I realize it sounds ridiculous for me to complain about stress in a library, but good grief, I have felt so busy and harried and just plain crabby. Not very Christmaslike. I hope I'm putting on a convincing cheerful mask for my coworkers and the kids. I'll feel better once we're past today and Olga is taken care of.

(Photo: Isn't this a great shop? Rain barrels, boots, backpacks, suitcases, shoes, even a chair. What is "wholesale retail," anyway?)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Streetside Snow Monster

This is the way to terrify your kid -- stop his stroller in front of a huge inflatable snowman. Good grief.

Another busy day yesterday, but I did get out at lunchtime for some quick photography -- three more uncovered streets for Bleeding London. Apparently we are not ending the project completely at the end of the year, as I expected. We're going to do even more coordinated, targeted shooting through January and possibly up until Easter, or as long as it takes to cover the remaining streets.

I have mixed feelings about this, as part of me would like to move on to other things, but honestly I still have a lot of fun going out and "collecting" streets. So what the heck. I figure I can get some shooting in tomorrow (when we leave work early) and Saturday, before Dave and I fly to Michigan on Sunday. I think by the end of January I can finish the NW10 and NW3 postcodes, and I'm sure I'll shoot elsewhere too.

I wore my Christmas sweater again yesterday. Man, that thing is hot.

I am so impressed with Obama for normalizing relations with Cuba. It's about time. It's silly to maintain a Cold War standoff with little relevance in the modern world, especially with Fidel aging and infirm. As for the cafe incident in Sydney -- why wasn't that guy in custody? He was suspected in a murder, for God's sake, not to mention a string of sexual assaults. I can't imagine why the Australian justice system allowed him to be out on bail, wandering the streets.

And as for Pakistan, well, I just have no words for that.

(Photo: Yesterday, in Marylebone.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chocolate Knives and Hand Lotion

Things were quite hectic yesterday, between getting the dog to the vet in the morning and Dave to the doctor in the afternoon. (His cough is still hanging on. The doctor told him he has an upper respiratory infection and gave him antibiotics and cough medicine containing codeine, which we have joked we should pound before our flight back to the states on Sunday.)

The library is super-busy, too, with kids finishing fall semester projects that involve the return of bazillions of library books. And to make matters worse, the parent volunteers who usually help me re-shelve are all out this week -- so I spent much of yesterday afternoon putting cartloads of materials back. I get a fairly decent upper-body workout hoisting all those books!

Dave and I have both been the lucky recipients of Christmas gifts from parents and students. Among a few other things, Dave got a set of chocolate Swiss Army knives -- an interesting use of chocolate! (If we were in a public school in the states they'd probably have been confiscated for so closely resembling weapons.)

I got two artfully wrapped bottles of geranium-lavender-peppermint hand soap and lotion, which -- despite the fact that I am not a fancy-soap kind of guy -- smell really nice and not at all girly. They came from a parent who I do not know well, but I was so touched that she thought of me. ("Do I smell bad?" I jokingly asked my coworker when I first opened them.) I am not a lotion person in general -- I hate smearing stuff on my skin -- but I must admit this lotion is pretty awesome and it feels great after I've re-shelved 200 pounds of books.

(Top photo: I've been trying to photograph this shop for months -- love the multiple signs and slightly campy name -- but there are always cars parked in front. Yesterday I decided to go for it anyway.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Artist's Muse

Yesterday was a very peculiar day. I wound up going on a short field trip to Regent's Park with a pack of ninth graders, completely unexpectedly. My boss had planned to chaperone, but then she was called to an important meeting, so I tagged along in her place. It wasn't difficult. I didn't know any of these kids very well, but I felt useful because I watched their bags while they did some team-building activities. And I got a free Chipotle burrito out of it!

(When I was single and living in New York, I used to eat Chipotle burritos at least weekly. Here I never do. I guess Dave keeps me better fed than I kept myself. Besides, there aren't as many Chipotles here, so availability is a bit more of an issue.)

I also finally sat for the art teacher at school who wants to paint my portrait. It turned out to be an uncomplicated affair. He asked me to wear a white shirt and dark jacket -- no nakedness! -- and he positioned me on a stool in front of a black background. Then he had me hold my head at various angles, my eyes looking in various directions, while he shot about 30 pictures. And that was it! The pictures are interesting, so we'll see what he does with the raw material. I'm a little afraid I'll wind up looking like this. (He had considered having me pose in a Haz-Mat suit, but that honor fell to some colleagues.)

Finally, I'm being badgered with little things. I had to schedule an appointment for the gas company to come and do a routine inspection of our boiler. I had to schedule Olga for a vaccine booster shot prior to her being boarded beginning Friday. We also ordered her a new Kong toy, which arrived yesterday -- her Christmas present!

(Photo: Windows in Harlesden, on Sunday.)