Final Reflection

Published August 11, 2011 by Aker

This is my last official post for now. I wrote this reflective piece on my last day in London. I hope you have enjoyed the journey with me. Tallyho!

Dear Future Self,

Mind the Gap

Pay attention more to the little things. To the things that appear mundane. The smallest details can turn into something big. They can change your perspective on anything.

A month ago when I was preparing to come to London, I was basically stuck in a rut. As a writer, I was always told I was a good writer. The one problem was I did not know how to write. If anyone asked me to do a lesson on how to write, I would not know where to start. My writing was okay, but lately it had become stale and my writing felt forced. I was not prolific at all, to say the least. The most I was doing was writing for my blogs, which I enjoyed. But as for poetry and any other type of writing, my heart was not in it as much. Most of the time it was because I did not know what to write about; I thought I did not have material.

On top of that, I was feeling stifled living with my parents. It is stressful to live with my very religious Christian parents, especially my mother, and barely have any faith in religion at all. Although I have interests in how religions are connected and the spirituality behind them, organized religion frustrates me because of how people in power have used it to control people. Although I love her,it will be hard to try to tell that to my often stubborn mother. It will take a while for me to get the courage to do that. I was feeling suffocated where I was; I needed a breather for a while and I felt this was it.

When I arrived, I was like any other tourist. I wanted to see all the typical sights: Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Eye, the Double Decker buses, and the red telephone booths.  The truth was that I did not know that much about the city of London or England besides those places and things, and the several musicians that I enjoyed, like Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Clash, The Who, David Bowie, The Noisettes and Adele. I realized that I knew very little.

Surprisingly, I was just as attracted to the quieter places, the more common objects and people, the relationships I formed and what I could do on my own. Reading Acroyd’s two opening chapters in London: A Biography about the sea and the stones gave us a sense of the basic elements that make up the city not the grand structures we focus on now. Arriving at Queen Mary University, the two spaces that drew me in were the Regents Canal right next to it and the old cemetery with flat tombstones embedded within it. At first sight one might not think it would be interesting, but their placement there was enough interest for me.

On our trips out of the campus, I was surprised by some of the things I did enjoy and some of things I did not enjoy as much. I was not as amazed by the Tower of London nor compelled by most of the other castles. Instead I enjoyed the walk along the River Thames and the two staircases that led to the river. In my research, including a chapter from Ackroyd’s book, I found out about watermen who were like taxi drivers on the river used these. I would have never known that if I did not see those stairs there.

In the shopping and tourist attraction areas, such as, Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden, I immediately took to the street performers, buskers. The tin man, the living statues, the musicians, the dancers, the comedians, and the stunt people were all there. One notable performer was a man at Covent Garden, who was dressed in a red tutu and had three volunteers, two men and a little girl, dressed in tutus also. They hilariously danced to music like Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing.” He also did a juggling trick with two swords and an apple while balancing on top of a board and cylinder. They were the ones who pulled me into the streets around me.

Then there were the moments at the tube stations. Obviously, the first thing a New Yorker would do is to compare it to the subway. Although the tube wins in time efficiency and cleanliness, they do not win when it comes to size, air conditioning and availability after midnight. One time after we went to the British Museum, it was around six in the evening and a crowd was forming outside the train station at Holborn. In New York, the overcrowding usually takes place once you are inside the station. But in London, we waited outside for about half an hour because someone was under the train. We stood there debating whether or not to take a bus when finally they began letting people in. Rush hour here can feel like an inferno when many riders are cramped into the small space of the tube trains and there is no air conditioning. I think I sweated more in there than I did outside walking.

Another time, Stacey, Sunnie, Sabrina and I decided to go for a walk at night in the city. When we were ready to go back to the university, we were not sure which bus to use. It was around midnight, so, we rushed for the central line tube station and we weren’t the only ones. As the announcers broadcasted that this was the last train, hoards of peoples rushed and packed themselves into the trains. I felt like a squished sardine. It is just too much work to travel after midnight in London.

The walks in London were another feat for me. A few weeks before I came, I decided to do a 40-50 block walks around my neighborhood for the exercise, time to think and to test myself. Coming here, we heard Morgan tell us that this is not a walking city; I kind of shrugged it off. I wish my feet believed him. I mean, it is walkable, just not an easy walkable. Walking the Thames Walk from the Tower of London to the Barbican was like a treasure hunt, and that, along with the 311 steps of the monument, the hill at Greenwich, the tor at Glastonbury, and the steps of the tube stations at stops like Russell Square, was equivalent to the feeling Rocky had when he danced at the top of the stairs in the movie.

I live with my parents and I am their only child, so they have babied me a lot. Thus, living in a dorm is a new experience to me. Having to share a flat with other people has not been easy. Sunnie, Stacey and I became friends easily from the start, but the other half of the suite made it harder to live here. It was not that they were mean, but they tended to be inconsiderate of the others who lived with them. The dirty kitchen with the dishes left unwashed for days, the food left out for days on the counter, the loud music and noise at inappropriate times were some of the problems we had to deal with. But eventually the problems began to level off towards the end and now the two sides are at least tolerating each other.

Living on my own, I learned to do things on my own without the feeling of my parents over my shoulder. I did my laundry myself, I made my own meals, I bought my own groceries, and I went where I wanted to go. I did it all on my own. It felt very liberating and something I have to continue when I return home.

As for the classes, getting up five days a week for three-hour classes in addition to readings, writings and touring were overwhelming, and several times I wish I was outside instead of sitting in a stuffy classroom. However, I do love to learn and Morgan, the readings and even myself have taught me a lot. If it were not for this class, I would not have learned the process of writing, the history behind certain places, why Londoners act a certain way, and the history within the readings and movies.

For example, we stayed in East London, near Whitechapel, where Jack the Ripper committed his murders. The reason why every place in London has the “keep fire door shut” sign is that Londoners are still fearful of fire from The Great Fire of 1666. V for Vendetta is based off of Guy Fawkes and his gunpowder plot. All of these small facts were based off of these big events in history that I would have not known about before or even would have bothered to look up.

In the last days of our stay, the London riots broke out. Stacey and I were in our dorms when Sunnie told us how the riots had reached our neighborhood and boys with masks on their faces were breaking the window at the Budgens store near the university and looting it. All night we heard police sirens and the next day, we saw police cars and police on foot in the afternoon. The riots have spread throughout the entire city, fires have destroyed several buildings and clashes between rioters and police have escalated. Many are now thinking how did it come to this. Was it because of the police shooting and killing Mark Duggan or was it something more? All I could think of was an article I read about the riot in which a man said how this had been building up for some time. He spoke about how they had marches two months ago in Scotland Yard and the media and government did not pay attention. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?” he said. All of this was boiling up and people were not paying attention.

I began to think of a lot of the things we learned during this course. London has survived several destructive events, like the Great Fire and the WWII bombings. Could it survive another one? I thought of the Brixton Riots in 1981, which I learned more about in the Museum of London exhibition, and how riots are breaking out in Brixton again. I thought of The Clash’s song, “London Burning” and how the punk era started out of the youth feeling disillusioned and disenchanted because they had become expendable. Both Stacey and I reflected on the Communist Manifesto, the clashes between classes, and the western economies worsening with the major gap between the rich and poor widening. We also thought of V for Vendetta and Guy Fawkes and how regular people becomes so disgusted with the system that they decide to take matters into their own hands. It was all coming together.

So, I plan to go back to New York and try the same thing we did here in London. A place that I lived in for over 20 years and there is still so much I have not discovered. I will go back and read New York: An Illustrated History, a textbook that I bought a year and a half ago for class, and go from there. Who knows what I will find and maybe through that I can find more opportunities to be able to go further out on my own. Already I formed a connection with Stacey and will be joining her in her Common Ground poetry showcase each month and the café is in my neighborhood. Now that I know how to consciously and actively write better, I will continue to work on becoming a better writer and explore other genres.

There are connections and opportunities everywhere; go and find them. I am learning to understand myself and others around me better.

Stop looking for inspiration to come from something big. Notice everything around you, seize them, and do not take them for granted. Have as what Sean Penn says, “The uncommon thought on the common matter.” Your imagination will take you places.

Love,

Sherese

Last Days: The Stage, The Law, The Entertainment

Published August 8, 2011 by Aker

I will be leaving England in a couple of days…boohoo! So I have been trying to pack in a few more sights before I leave. Yesterday, I went to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre for the tour and exhibition. It was interesting to learn the history of the Globe theatre. It opened in the 16th century and was very popular, but it burned down a century later when a canon was shot during a performance. After it was rebuilt with a tile roof, but later closed and demolished when theaters were closed during the reign Puritans. In the 20th century, an American actor name Sam Wanamaker, who loved Shakespeare, wanted to rebuild the theatre and spent the rest of his life raising funds and planning for it. He died in 1993, but his dreams came true in 1997, when the theatre officially reopened. However, it was hard to build the theatre the way it is now because of the thatch roof, which easily catches on fire (the English have been fearful of fire ever since the Great Fire of 1666), and not knowing the exact look of the original theaters. Also, I found out that Wanamaker’s daughter Zoe appeared in the Harry Potter films as Madame Hooch, and that King Charles II had a thing for actresses (if you know what I mean) and was involved pushing to have actresses be in plays (only men could act before that). Supposedly a lot of the aristocracy were descendants born out of his fascination for actresses. Haha!

Speaking of fires, I woke up this morning to find out about the student riots in East London over the weekend. Buses, cars and even buildings were set ablaze, including the Tottenham High Road’s Carpetright Shop. Several are saying that it started after a black man named Mark Duggan was shot and killed by police, but the causes behind the riot actually have been bubbling up for some time. We are very close to it, since we are staying on the east side of London. Wow! Don’t worry, we are all safe. In fact, the whole day went by smoothly as if nothing happened, but I wonder what that area looks like…

Also, today we went to see a trial at Old Bailey court near St. Paul’s cathedral. It was interesting to see that the judge and the lawyers (barristers) wore powdered wigs and that the defendant was kept behind a glass wall as well as the witness. We sat in on a murder trial for a man named Charlie, who is allegedly stabbed a man named Abraham. Most of what we saw was the witness, Angela, who stayed in a flat with Abraham, discuss what happened. All I can say is she was a bit erratic (they did a lot of crack).

The end of my day, I went to the British Library, which is huge! The library has a few intriguing exhibitions, such as for Alice in Wonderland, poet Mervyn Peake, and Out of This World, history of science fiction. To top it all off, a Nigerian engineer student flirted with me, but I did not feel a connection, so I left. Then I explored Russell Square and Covent Garden, where I watched a few buskers, including a hilarious man in a red tutu dancing with two other men and a young girl in tutus. So yes, I have had an eventful past few days!

Drink Time

Published August 6, 2011 by Aker

Tomorrow I turn 21 and it feels as if I have already celebrated it because the age for drinking in England is 18. And it makes sense why the drinking age is lower. Supposedly, the English are know for putting away a lot of alcohol! Our professor actually told us that the English are the biggest drinkers in Europe and some pubs are hundreds of years old. Wow! Everywhere you turn there is a pub; Near Queen Mary University, there is the New Globe Pub, where we have seen several people having a little too much to drink. For a class trip we went to The Lamb Pub, which was Charles Dicken‘s favorite pub.I had the Kronenbourg 1664 French beer, which is has a nice thick nutty flavor. I later bought a four pack of it later. My suitemate Sunnie gave me a Carlesburg beer, which was a bit more bitter and lighter than the Kronenbourg. A week before that, I had bought a bottle of Oxford Landing’s South Australian Cabernet wine at the local supermarket. It felt good not to be carded and I must say that I enjoyed it very much; it had a nice slightly fruit taste, especially with the pomegranate. Yesterday, some of my classmates and I went to a bar in Barbican and I had a Madame Butterfly cocktail drink, which is a melon and passionfruit liquor drink mixed with pineapple juice, cream and chocolate sprinkles. It was good! I also had a sip of an mixed Absinthe drink; now that was strong despite its taste. So, cheers to me turning 21, now I can go home with a beer gut. Just kidding!

Mind the Gap

Published August 5, 2011 by Aker

This song makes so much sense now after being on the London Undeground or Tube. Although it is cleaner than NYC subways, it is smaller, more cramped and the heat is unbearable most times because there is no air conditioning. I swear I sweated more in there than outside. Also, the tube stops working around midnight, so late night travel is harder.

Maybe I can do a song about the NYC subway system when I return. Haha.

Lyrics

Please give up this space
To someone worthy
Of course we are not worthy
To rest our bones
Ignore the human race
At your peril
Although magazine values
Are all around
I see tired and deflated faces
What is this thing un-happening

Climb on to the magic bus
Soon you will be part of us

Tra la la la lah (etc)
If you see an unattended package or bag
Donít ignore it, don’t touch it
Alert a police officer
Or a member of staff

Look out please, mind the gap
Watch out for the people trap
Here we are, going down
Hold on before we hit the ground
Look out please, mind the gap
Stiletto stuck, in the cracks
Look out please, mind the gap
Someone is gonna get a slap

Ditto, ok, that’s cool, that’s fine
Yes sir, no sir, sorry, no thanks

Dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah dah (etc)

Mind the gap, mind the gap
Better mind the gap, mind the gap

Tra la la la lah, la lah la la lah, la la lah …

Busking: The Stage On the Streets (Second Draft of Creative Writing Piece)

Published August 5, 2011 by Aker

I still need to revise it some more according to my professor (he says I need to put more of myself in it as well as talk about the freaks part at the end throughout), but here is what I have so far. Tell me what you think:

Busking: The Stage on the Streets

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts…” – William Shakespeare

It’s four o’clock, beginning of the afternoon rush as hoards of tourists exit out to Piccadilly Circus from the station. I ride the dull escalator towards the exit. Ads for the Wam Bam Burlesque Club, Captain America and L.A. Noire movies, Mamma Mia, Fela and Shrek shows, exhibits of the National Portrait Gallery and Kate Middleton’s wedding dress at Buckingham palace, masked the walls as I went up. Wearing a purple shirt and dark blue jeans that were noticeably too large for me, its bottoms stuffed into my black ankle-length boots, I kind of wanted to hide. I might have been just paranoid; no one was really looking at me. I hoped and yet deep down knowing someone would notice.

Passing the Lilly White sports store, I pulled out my journal and walked in the direction of the large crowd. Some, either worn-out from earlier walks or fatigued from the heat of riders packed in the trains of the underground tube with no air conditioning, found any available spot and squeezed themselves in underneath the black Eros statue. Others continued to walk down the street amongst the aged, white stone Victorian buildings, taking pictures of the ostentatious architecture with carvings of Greek gods. I passed by these frozen tourist attractions unimpressed. They were like large versions of paperweights; their purpose was mostly to hold a space.

Instead I found myself viewing the Samsung advertisements on loop on the immense screens above. On it, I watched commercials for Coco Cola, Samsung electronics, Mcdonald’s, Lycamobile and even one for the support of the Japanese earthquake relief fund. That last one seemed so out of place. My skeptical mind already thought of some profit motive behind it.

Unable to get a seat on the staircase of the statue, I looked around at the five roads connected by Piccadilly Circus – Regents, Piccadilly, Glasshouse, Shaftesbury Avenue and Coventry—and tried to decide where to go amongst the commotion. I quickly crossed the street to see a crowd gathering at the front of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. A medium-sized group of people stood around the main entrance and I absorbed myself into the slowly growing mass.

“Hey, come and watch me do a magic trick,” summoned the street performer as more of the street crowd drew in closer to him. They stepped in close enough to see the upcoming show, but made sure to stand outside of the chain that circled around him on the ground.

The crowds in the streets are merciless in a different way than a regular theatre audience for they do not pay a ticket to come and watch. They can come and go as they please, so it takes an over-the-top personality to pull them in. Wearing a black bowler hat and his lean, wiry body in black slacks and a red shirt with the Ripley’s logo on it, the performer managed to show his enthusiasm through his craggily, wrinkly face.

Looking around the audience, he said, “Who wants to help me? You two guys in the front want to join me in doing this.”

Two stout men were singled out as the rest of us in the audience tried to avoid the performer’s pointing finger. They shrugged their shoulders and said, “yeah, sure,” in a somewhat lackadaisical manner.

As they stepped beyond the circular chain barrier, the performer asked the first man, dressed in a green Fred Flintstone shirt that said “Who’s Your Daddy” and an obvious protruding beer gut, for his name.

“David,” he replied. He turned to the next man, who was slightly slimmer and dressed in a blue plaid shirt and jeans, and he replied, “Peter.”

“Okay mates, let’s begin,” he said as he stood on the black, rectangular-shaped platform. “Hello everyone, my name is Tony Roberts, from Australia. I will be attempting to put my entire body through this tennis racket.” He held up an old, dingy white tennis racket with the hoop lacking the mesh of strings.

Tony took the racket and put his left arm and head through the hoop. He jokingly remarked, “It’s a boy,” as he contorted his body through the hoop and began to put his right arm through it as well. The audience let out a few reluctant laughs.

He waved at David to grab his hand and pull it through. For a second, Tony dropped to his knees and joked again, “I’m not gonna ask you to marry me. Although you do have lovely eyes and soft hands for a man.” The audience laughed a little louder.

As David pulled his arm through, Tony commented,  “Give him a hand. He’s just a member of the crowd like you.” In the corner, a woman with shoulder-length blonde hair woman gasped in amazement that he fitted himself through the hoop. In a teasing manner, he replied, “Covering your mouth doesn’t stop your eyes from seeing, my dear.”

The audience clapped as he pushed the tennis racket down against his chest. “Don’t clap any louder, you might encourage the Americans. Come closer, so you don’t block the sidewalk.” I let the comment pass over my head, too involved in watching the show before me.

He then proceeded in telling David and Peter to pick up the chains on the ground and they began to wrap them around his torso, neck, arms, hands and the tennis racket. In order to cross the chain around him, David and Peter get very close and Tony continues in his bawdy wit. “Is this like Friday nights at your house,” and went on with a few utterances of “ooh.”

“Here we have two Englishmen tying up an Australian.” A few more laughs came out of the audience. Some members of the audience fidgeted within their cramped spots. A man in a black shirt and sunglasses bumped his elbow into my journal and turned around just enough to see me writing. He gave a quick quizzical look before turning back around to continue watching the show.

Tony asked Peter to open a bottle of water next to the platform and to pour some into his mouth. Then he asked Peter to stand on the platform holding the bottle of water over his head. “In the spirit of the late, great Houdini, I will attempt to escape from these locks under water,” he joked. Some more chuckles come from the audience.

As Peter stepped down, Tony asked the audience to do a countdown with him at the end of two minutes. No one answers as if blindsided. He had broken further through the imaginary fourth wall between himself and us.  The same fourth wall in the proscenium theatres in which audiences, trapped in their three-walled box seats, instantly separated themselves from the action on the stage. This audience wanted to be seen as one entity with no interaction at all with the man in front of them. But even the audience participates in the drama of the performance and Tony reaction made it clear to us.

“C’mon, you’re the only audience I got. When I ask a question, I expect a response,” he begged despairingly, “Don’t worry about any humiliation, that is my job.” He asked again for a countdown and the crowd responded finally with a slightly apathetic “yes.”

Tony began to wiggle and contort out on the chains, dislocating his fingers in order to pull his hands out. As he did this, he encouraged the audience to stay by yelling, “Five floors, 700 exhibits, after I pull myself free, please join me inside for a voucher to get discount ticket to Ripley’s Believe It or Not.”

With less than 30 seconds to spare, he pulled his hands free from the chains and pushed the tennis racket down to his feet. “Okay, follow me in for a free voucher.” Most of the crowd fled as soon as he finished. A free show is better than even a discounted one.

Yet I followed him in there to see what it was like in the “odditorium.” On the speakers, I could hear Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s “Shoop.” I giggled a little because the song choice appeared to be random. But this was Ripley’s; as its sign said, “Home of the Unbelievable.” As I picked up the black voucher with the white, orange and yellow logo of the exhibit and a picture of its entrance, I looked around to see a picture of a man with his eyeballs popping out of his socket. Turning to left, a screen showed an exhibition for Marilyn Monroe. Londoners seem to be in awe of her.

The generic tan wooden floors, the red, blue and green fluorescent light tubes on the ceiling, the reflective glass walls and the red carpets with the logo on them were off-putting despite the allure of the bizarre figures surrounding me. I could probably find most of them in a book or a Google search later on anyway.

I walked back outside, looking at the facade of the building, the London Pavilion, a former music hall and theatre, which was now covered in red Ripley’s awnings. It was a good fit for a museum displaying the oddities of life, joining other huge, ornate buildings that house the oddities of every culture. You can go as far as to even say making oddities of common items by putting them on display. From its origin, museums were private collections (loot from cultures all over the world) of wealthy families and made public probably to show off that wealth and rub it in the faces of the rest of us.

Walking down Coventry Street, I noticed several souvenir shops one after another. Before crossing the street again, I looked up to see another screen showing LG commercials and the colorful stars made of circles on the signs of the Trocadero in the distance. On the sidewalk curb, a man in his dirty blue hooded sweatshirt, jeans and sneakers played The Carpenter’s “Closer to You” with and orange and white street traffic cone like it was a trumpet. Several walked by not knowing whether to feel strange or be intrigued that he was using a traffic cone. And he didn’t let the surprised stares faze him (then again, he did look “high”). If only I had a camera, it could have gone on Youtube and have a million hits by now.

Across the street, I went into Cool Britannia, the biggest souvenir shop in Piccadilly Circus. Inside was a dimly lit, red decorated store that had enough merchandise for a window shopper’s paradise. Bags, mugs, flags, posters, trinkets, plates, teddy bears, sweatshirts, shirts, decorated license plates, postcards, calendars and anything else you could think of was in there. As I went down the stairs to the basement, I briefly had to stop behind a mother and daughter who were gawking at the silver and gold suit of armor and the red telephone booth on the landing. Downstairs, I saw more of the same stuff. I soon became bored with the place after fifteen minutes and was slightly irritated when I saw a whole section dedicated to Guinness products, especially when I saw a plate item that said, “Black is Beautiful,” but with a picture of cups of beer at the bottom. I thought, “Thank you Guinness for the co-opting.” I made my way for the door.

After I left, I walked towards the Criterion Restaurant with its turquoise and blue marquee. In front of it, a tin man stood there dressed in a silver suit, and gold hat, vest and shoes. Like a pantomime, he said no words, only waiting for tourist to flock to him for pictures as he stood on his silver trunk. I stood there watching a young girl with her black hair tied back in a ponytail and in pink dress, staring him down with a callous look and he stared at her back. She then ran off and he shrugged his shoulders as if he expected that kind of behavior. A teenage boy stepped up on the trunk for a picture and the tin man quickly pulled out a toy silver gun holding it up to the boy’s neck. Catching on to the gag, the boy grabbed his neck and jokingly, the tin man pointed his gun to the boy’s crotch and back up to his neck. I wondered if he did that out of sheer boredom standing there everyday. He has to do something to keep himself going. But the picture was taken and the small crowd around him, including myself, dispersed.

I walked in the direction of the Eros statue and found another crowd surrounding three young, white Eastern European men (I could tell from their accents) on a small black and white checkered dance floor. “If you see something like I break my leg, don’t call the ambulance,” said one in ankle breaker shirt with a half-star underneath the words. “…And if you like the show, please pay for your tickets in the buckets below.”

The three men, the other two in a Funky Poser’s monkey shirt and a musical notes shirt, started break-dancing to a 90s techno song that I barely remember except for the “ooh la la,” part. While one did the various acrobatic movies, the other two tried to get the audience excited by clapping. As soon as the song finished, most of the crowd rushed away avoiding having to put any monetary amount into the light green, blue and pink buckets. The three men, however, were not disheartened as a few offered to give them some change, and just like the others before them, they left the location to continue onto the next willing audience.

I chose to stand in a corner of the window area of the Criterion Theatre, next to the Eros statue. The posters for the play, 39 Steps, based on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film, covered the front walls of the theatre.  As I continued writing in my journal, I notice two dark-haired men stare at me as they walked by. I guess they thought I looked strange. I should be used to the stares by now; I don’t look like the average black woman, let alone the average woman in London, not even in America. But I still couldn’t resist giving a snarled look at them and watching them hastily turn away. It’s refreshing to think of yourself as the observer observing others who in turn are observing you and our reactions to each other. Whether in the audience or in front of them, I am on display just like any other.

When I turned to the left, I saw a young, fresh-faced man standing near me in front of the doorway. His conspicuous manner of dress, a black top hat, dark gray jeans, gray shirt and suspenders, did not match his naïve and nervous as he placed his unicycle on his black duffle bag. Not knowing what to do, he took out a translucent Fushigi ball and began to glide it between his hands. I stood there awkwardly wondering if he knew my attention was on him. Gazing at the ball, he smiled as if he was lost in his own world and ignored everyone around him. The streets and its people were all seen in the reflection of the ball as if he held the world between his fingers.

Soon, others began to stop at look at him and the ball, which seemed to float between his hands. For moment, gravity did not exist as he started sliding the ball upon his arms. I knew there was a simple explanation for why the ball did that but I chose not to think of reality at that time, only the magic of the moment. A boy with shoulder-length curly blond hair asked the “magician” how he does the trick. With the ball, he steps forward and bends down to let the boy examine the ball to see if maybe there was a puppet’s string attached to it. Even a man in his yellow soccer shirt had to stop to gaze in amazement. He seemed to be the most genuine, pure-hearted one of all the performers that day.

“Are we all freaks just looking for a stage?” I said this to myself as I turned to head into the Piccadilly Circus tube station. Going down the escalator, I approached guitar player singing R.E.M.’s “Man On the Moon” in a deep, coarse voice. As I passed him, I could still faintly hear him down the hall leading to the train. Another thought came to mind. I remembered that Joe Strummer from the Clash was a busker, a street performer, like all them. I wondered if any of them would leave the streets of Piccadilly one day to the calling of a bigger stage. Would I ever want to do the same? Maybe the real fun lies somewhere on those street corners where you close enough to those who choose to stop and be part of the show.

The Jubilee Continues…

Published August 3, 2011 by Aker

Today in class was music day (Songs about London!) and besides watching some of the movie, Sid and Nancy, starring Gary Oldman, we listened to a lot of music. Here is some of what we heard:

The Smiths – London

Misfits- London Dungeon

Madness- The Liberty of Norton Folgate

Donovan- Sunny Goodge Street

Pulp- Mile End (This is where our university actually is!)

Sex Pistols- God Save the Queen

The Clash – London Calling (The song from which our class is named and we do live by the river, the East end where most of the poor people use to live)

The Clash- Guns of Brixton (About the Riots in Brixton in 1980)

Sinead O’ Connor – Black Boys on Mopeds (Also about Brixton riots, two boys were gunned down while riding mopeds)

Blur- London Loves

The Clash – London’s Burning (based on the nursery rhyme, London Bridge is Falling Down)

Adele – Hometown Glory