Archive for April, 1998


29 April 1998 at 6:43 pm
by Jonah

If your city centre is all that I saw
I’d think your business was usually law
What with the dark blue designer suits
By shops displaying Italian made boots
Polluting the air with pricey cologne
Retracting antennae of cellular phones
Storefronts that advertise costly Swiss watches
Available only to those in the very top notches
Whilst the only presence of untidy feet
Are the blue collar workers paving the street

Beyond art museums in all of their glory
Past quite trendy shops lies a much different story
Walk a few blocks and the streets will now sing
Of blackened brick buildings, cheap high-rise housing
Chimneys like monuments point to the sky
Proclaiming industry of days gone by
Do workers still toil in rain mixed with sweat
Knives in their pockets to settle a debt?
O, city of weaving, as you rose you may fall
To the relentless advance of more urban sprawl

How do you draw water?

28 April 1998 at 6:53 pm
by Jonah

How do you draw water? Not from a well with a bucket but with a pen? how do you capture light on paper? do you chisel away at negative space like a sculptor with a block of stone, knocking off everything that doesn’t look like it? Do you use white paint? Thin lines of it?

How do you draw water? Not out of a river but into paper? How do you capture its movement, fluidity, its flux? How do you reflect reflections? how do you record what’s not really there? How do you put down the glistening ripples behind a female mallard and double consort swimming madly downstream? how do you chronicle the triangle of backwash beyond a bridge pylon? how do you remember the explosion of reflexions that occurs when a boat goes by?

And how do you tell your foot to wake up when its been sat on all this time. Ouch.

Tuesday, April 28, 1998

28 April 1998 at 6:39 pm
by Jonah

A bus just drove by this stop as I was walking out the door. It appeared to go the opposite direction a few minutes later, or maybe that was a different one altogether. Anyway, I hope that means another will be coming along soon. I shut the door behind me, so I can’t go back in and call for info. I do know that the next direct coach to York doesn’t leave until this evening, so I’m in no hurry yet. 86 Mosely Common Road is inhabited by a couple of blokes. Seamus, a friend of James & Alysia, and another guy. They warmly welcomed this stranger and offered me a bed, shower, and breakfast. Incredible.

James and I arrived here late last night after driving from Leamington Spa to Gloucester with Al, and listening to Primus, then picking up a car there, and after having coffee and sandwiches at some people’s house, riding in a little old blue car the couple hours to Manchester. We listened to “the radio of delights,” as James said Mel calls it, singing along to Virgin Radio on an AM station that disappeared under every bridge. It didn’t matter, if I liked a song, I heard it in my head with full bass complete with subwoofer.

James got a chick to come pick us up yesterday morning and take us to Warwick , where he works. I headed for the town centre and then followed the signs pointing toward Warwick Castle. It didn’t open until 10, and it was barely 9. So I looked around town, bought a carton of orange juice at a small supermarket, and sat on a bench in the sun, watching people.

Finally, 10 o’clock approached, and I walked back to the castle entrance, waiting with other early tourists to purchase my ticket. These included three guys from the U.S., who stood in line ahead of me. Fortunately, I had a voucher attached to a brochure I picked up at Longleate, so I got a better discount (and a free guidebook) than I would have with merely a student discount.

Warwick bills itself as the finest Medieval castle in England, and indeed, it is impressive. The Tussauds Group have taken it over, so in parts of it are fine wax figures portraying different aspects of life at different times. The castle itself shows separate areas of development. There’s the Norman wall atop the high motte, then the later gate with its portcullis and murder holes. Several towers enforce their way along the wall reaching high above the River Avon flowing by calmly below. James said during the Eater floods, the reason why Warwick didn’t flood was because of the castle moat.

Warwick has been closely involved in the politics of England. During the War of the Roses, the earl there was called “the Kingmaker” because of his immense influence. later, it was the Earl of Warwick who proclaimed his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey queen for nine days before Bloody Mary seized the throne. In the state rooms, the furnishings remain late Victorian, when the Prince of Wales visited the castle’s baroness so often he had his own bedroom and even the queen and her consort came for lunch.

There was also the armoury and the dungeon. I didn’t think I’ve ever been in a real dungeon before. It was a dank place with a few carvings on the walls.

There were quite a few carvings on the walls that remained of Kenilworth castle as well, but they were the result of years–no, centuries of graffiti. Some of the names and dates from the 17 and 1800’s were beautifully carved. they just don’t make them like they used to. I explored the ruins for Kenilworth with Melissa as Graham and James looked for cars. Two girls exploring a castle, it was much fun. Unlike its neighbor, Warwick, Kenilworth didn’t survive the Civil War. The sun was shining, and it was beautiful, but I didn’t have my camera with me. We cantered back on imaginary horseback to the knights awaiting us in the car park.

Another knight was looking at Warwick dungeon with me “Are you American?” he asked. I nodded. It was one of the three American guys at the ticket window. He reminded me of Wedgie. “You look American with your baseball cap…kinda gives it away.”

“Yeah,” I answered. “They don’t place baseball here.”

Later after I had exhausted the castle’s attractions, I followed the ticket taker’s directions to a bus stop, but the next one didn’t go to Stratford-upon-Avon until that evening. So I started following signs to the train station instead, only I didn’t know how far away it would be. As I walked, someone said, “What are you doing here?” It was my dungeon American, or Ramil, as he introduced himself, along with his friends Rich and Eric. I led them to the kebab place I’d just passed and we ordered. I got a doner on a bun, which I had no idea what it was, but it was only £1.70. The Indian lady behind the counter asked Eric something, and Ramil fought to control his laughter because he had no idea what she said.

“She asked if he wanted salad and chili on his,” I informed him. “Salad is green stuff and chili is some sort of sauce. I think.” Since I’ve been here five weeks, that makes me the expert on everything. It was fun telling horror stories about crossing streets and driving on the wrong side of the road. Funny how good it is to hear American voices. We huddled in the kebab joint, trying to figure the least messiest method of eating whatever it was we were eating, stupid Americans who hadn’t learned the meaning of “take away” food.

They offered me a ride to Scotland and I accepted as far as the train station, which happened to be all of a few yards away. “Give us a call sometime,” said Remil. His buddies laughed at him–as if they had a phone.

I took the train to Stratford-upon-Avon, paid way too much to see Shakespeare’s birthplace (“I’m a student,” I said to the man at the ticket counter. “So?” he answered, “You’ll pay five pounds, just like everybody else.”), and then caught one back to Leamington Spa.

Sunday, April 26, 1998

26 April 1998 at 12:00 pm
by Jonah

We had to leave the park before it closed at 8. Back in the car accompanied by drum and bass (Paul evidently composes), we returned to the house, number 135, not 175. James made me a sausage and cheese sandwich with brown sauce. I didn’t realize there was actually called such a thing. Then I went upstairs to watch Austin Powers on laser disc in Paul’s room with him and Al, while James gave Allison a bass lesson in the cellar (basement). It’s a tiny room centered around a small TV screen, surrounded by an incredible sound system. A sleeping pallet to sit on, curtains draped on the walls, and candles burning completed the atmosphere, which consisted mainly of the smoke from the cigarettes Paul and Alister were stripping and rerolling to smoke.

A man in underwear and socks just walked in and asked if I was okay. “I’ve been asleep for four hours,” he informed me, “Now I feel great, ready to get on with the day.” Hmmm… I guess that was Al, which means the other guy I was watching Austin Powers with was someone else, but I can’t remember his name. I don’t even know how many people live here. There’s James, of course, and Paul and Rob, who walks with crutches, and Melissa, the only female (officially). Then I think there’s John and Ed, since both have been in the kitchen acting as if it belonged to them. I don’t know if there are anymore. I sleep where I can. The first night I slept on the floor in James’ Room with Allison and her 4-year-old Jessica, who’s crazy about the Spice Girls, all except Scary Spice. Last night I was on Melissa’s “bed,” since she was spending the night elsewhere. Tonight? Who knows. Possibly the couch. I’m sitting on one of them now in an orange painted room with a radioactive blue that wants to be teal trim. On the wall are three Slam Gundog Diplomacy insignias, probably thanks to James, who until recently managed a surf shop. The air duct along the ceiling is painted red with large, black polka dots. The radiator has black Holstein splotches. The TV sits atop a psychedelically coloured box. And the rear speakers of the surround sound system are covered in zebra faux fur.

As are the drums down in the cellar/studio. There’s quite a collection of instruments down there, as there care evidently quite an assortment of instruments James can play. I’ve been told he’s an amazing bass player, though I’ve only heard him pick up a guitar. Then there’s the conga and bongo drums we took with us in the car to Coventry yesterday for him to play at the opening of a crisis pregnancy center. The praise band sounded really good. They sounded even better this morning at worship. 2 electric guitars, bass, drums, trombone, keyboard, 2 female vocalists, and conga drums, played by James, who led worship. The message was given by Richard, a guitar player, who gave a great talk on Psalms. I actually stayed awake, probably because I was scribbling on the bulletin.

From the boys club gym where the meeting was held, we crammed into Graham’s car and went to the University to get food. Then Graham, Melissa, James, Zoe, and I went to a pub or something where James had promised to hear a girl in multicolured pants (only they call them “trousers” here; “pants denote underwear) sing an play guitar. The others wanted to have a picnic, the day having turned out bright and beautiful, so in compromise we ate the ice cream out in the street and then went in to hear the chick try to be Tracy Chapman. I had a half pint of something, which I drunk much too rapidly, and read parts of the Sunday Independent. When we had been there long enough, the carful of us came back to the house and ate.

James is looking to buy a car, since he was to drive north tomorrow, so after lunch, we drove all over Leaminton Spa looking at cars.

The last two nights I’ve accompanied James to pubs, stuffed beyond capacity with young adults, smoking, drinking, and shouting over the noise. This seems to be every young person’s idea of a good time on weekends, though I’m not sure why.

Friday night Allison, James, and I met up with Melissa and Claudia downtown and spent the remaining time, before the big bouncer threw everyone out, drinking pints and dodging members of the crowd trying to reach the bar. A couple of forty-somethings struck up a conversation with me. One of them claimed to be a plumber for Wales. He introduced his mate as a gynecologist. “And a very good gynecologist he is.” I’m sure. They asked if I would sing the national anthem. I said I would if they could find a flag. The “gynecologist nodded and turned to the bartender asking for an American flag. Instead, he gave him an American beer. The bloke tried to pass the bottle of Budweiser off to any of us, finally turning it upside down in James’ pint glass.

Last night we went to the Sozzled Sausage. What a name. Everyone has assured me that it is a “a quite nice place” in the daytime, though yesterday evening it was so jam packed with people the bouncer wouldn’t let us in until five other people left. Then he made me take off my hat, which was unfortunate, seeing as my hair needed washing. Nevertheless, I talked to a fellow named Justin, who unhappily woks in Marks and Spenser and would rather research history and political science or become a music critic. Francis told me there’s a real apathy amongst the British. Everyone resigns themselves to their lot in life. There is no encouragement to succeed or do anything that would change the class structure.

When we were ejected from the Sausage, the others went to Mirage, “the place we’re not going. It’s so cheesy,” explained James as he led the way home. I guess it’s much like Legends, so I wasn’t heartbroken. I went to bed instead of staying up till 2 the night before watching The Fifth Element again. Funny, the phone card I bought in Gillingham is a special edition 5th Element publicity thing. It says Corbin Dallas Multipass on the back. Even though it’s time is used up, I still carry it around as sort of a talisman, the same as the Becks bottle cap in my jacket pocket and Dutch coin I found Friday.

Al just offered to make me a pickle and cheese sandwich.

Yesterday, after the pregnancy center opening, Allison fixed us beans on toast for lunch at her house. Then she drove us downtown in Coventry, where James showed me around the Cathedral. The gutted shell of the one bombed in WWII remains next to the modern structure connected to it. I wasn’t sure I would like the new building much, but as I read the simple passages on the walls, proclaiming words of forgiveness and love from the Scriptures, the existence of this edifice made more sense than all the Gothic architecture I had encountered thus far. This stark structure with stained glass windows that didn’t depict much of anything made more sense than flying buttresses and carved saints and tomb effigies in a stone cavern demanding piety. Here, in this simple walls and roof, the message of peace preached itself. I wasn’t even offended by the small stand set up to sell post cards and stuff. And we didn’t have to pay to get in.

Most of Coventry was bombed flat in the war, so the appearance of the buildings is mostly ’60’s, James asked me as we took the bus and then walked back home if I missed my home. I admitted that my first day in the Midlands I kept seeing people I thought I recognized. Leamington, as well as the surrounding areas, remind me of America. The streets are wider (and straighter), the buildings further apart, the fields larger and with fewer hedges. James says the pace of life is fast here than in the south, in Somerset, where he comes from. “I try to return to Somerset time on weekends,” he said, casually crossing the street without looking to see if anyone were coming. He reminds me of others, I realized the other night. Take Matt Humphrey and add Spirit Meller plus the ability to play drums.

Saturday, April 25, 1998

25 April 1998 at 12:00 pm
by Jonah

Amongst school children, if one is “sent to Coventry” he is given the silent treatment. That hasn’t been true for me, however. I haven’t had time to write with all the people I’ve been around.

The bus rolled into Leamington Spa at about 5:30. That was too late for it to be open, but I walked about the town trying to find the National Express travel agency anyway after not getting an answer at Jame’s house. I did find a Dutch coin in the telephone change return, though. Sticking it in my pocket, I tried heading for the tourist information office, which I found to be closed because of the flooding damage. But just then a lady drove up and asked if I needed any help. She told me exactly where the agency was and pointed me toward Tachbrook Rd. I set off with my pack on my back, address in hand, looking for 175. A mile or more later, 175 appeared, a door next to a bookmaker office. That couldn’t be it. So I started walking back, looking for a public phone. I passed one, but there was someone in it. All the way back to the train station I went and called from there. This time someone answered, “James’ answering service…” I asked for him. “Yeah, hold on.”

“Hello, Joanne,” said James. I guess I’m the only American calling him. He said they were just on their way to a park and would come pick me up. A few minutes later, a car with 3 guys in it pulled up. “I’m James,” the bloke in the back seat stuck out his hand. I shook it and stuffed my sack in the back. Then we dashed off down the road, listening to drum and bass music. The car stopped several miles later, and we piled out at a beautiful park surrounding an abbey that had been turned into a hotel. The boys grabbed a soccer ball, football, and juggling clubs out of the back of the car and then passed the soccer ball back and forth to a playground, where James and Al tested the merits of the seesaw while Paul smoked a cigarette. They never grow up, do they?