Category Archives: London

Happy Opening Ceremonies Day From Me ‘N Brent’s Tramp Stamps!

(The moment Brent lifted his shirt, twirled around and yelled, “TWI-IINS!” is probably the hardest I’ve laughed in my entire life.)

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Filed under London, Picture Pages

F This January: Fitness and FIANCE (and Facial Swelling)

Just so I don’t let this thing drop off before I’ve started, January’s goal is to hire a personal trainer at my Y and/0r get Steve to finally burn me the P90X dvds he promised me. I’m pretty good at getting in shape on my own, but I have the feeling I could be using different machines and free weights. I’m sort of in a rut with those. I want to be semi-ripped by April.

I had my surgery this morning. Ooooh anesthesia. Ooooh gurl. Oooooh OOH. Now I understand what everyone was talking about! I mostly maintained my composure; the girl next to me collapsed into a clearly-never-high-before fit of giggles. (Not that I’ve ever been high before. Internet.)

So far the swelling and pain aren’t too bad (unless you are talking about how much my wallet hurts). The real ugly starts tomorrow, apparently.Justin is an amazingly great caretaker and even had a stuffed monkey waiting for me in the car when they walked me out.

I didn’t really have a panic attack before my surgery like I thought I would. Turns out the drugs are in the IV; I fell asleep waiting for the mask everyone told me about. I’m pretty grateful for that. I did get kinda emotional on the way there because this is my very first surgery, and everything about it reminded me about my Dad.

I haven’t really found the time to get into this on the blog, but I was recently diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s from the last few years with my dad. I’ll go into it more some other time, but I’m still crying about him at least once a day. It’s usually less than a minute, but it’s not about grief or missing him. It’s flashbacks, anger, and just thinking about everything he went through. I can’t stop putting myself in his shoes and it’s painful, but I’m aware that what I witnessed was pretty traumatizing and this is a common reaction. I’ve gone back to awesome Dave and have some good books and techniques to work on, but going through my first surgery hit a little too close to home in that area.

And well, there was a little grief today. If anyone could have calmed me down and walked me through this, it would have been him. But I tried to imagine what he would have said, and that helped a lot. Getting to say, “My fiance” like 10 times when the nurses asked me about my driver helped, too.

Blah Blah Wedding Cakes:

My favorite photographer (Ben of the Beth Grant video awesomeness) is free on the date that I want! Biggest priority is booking a venue in the next few weeks. This is not a section about cakes; we already know we’re copying off my cousin for that because it was fucking delicious. (If you don’t know what “Blah Blah Cakes” is about, then you must be younger than me, at least where the Internet is concerned.)

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Filed under F This 2012, London, Sam I Am

Decade

Today everyone is posting about where they were and how they found out. I’m not sure why, like one person’s story is more important than another person’s story, but whatever. I’ll bite.

I was in London, sitting in one of the Queen’s many parks. Class was out for the day and I had the whole afternoon free. The school pub was planning on having a “Latin Fever” party in the school pub that night and we were all psyched for cheap tequila.

In hindsight, I saw the signs before I knew. A crying girl ran by me in the hallway, which I attributed to homesickness. I saw a group of rich EBS (European Business School) kids crowded around a TV in the library, and I shook my head in disgust because EBS kids were always talking on their cell phones and yelling and acting like assholes in the library.

While the rest of the world was watching everything unfold on live TV, I was–I shit you not–sitting under a willow tree, writing in my journal and feeding ducks. To my left? A Japanese garden. To my right? A waterfall. I swear to God, every 10 minutes a swan would glide by as I wrote about how much I was loving my new life in London.

This is why I won’t be posting where I was on Facebook.

When I got back, Yolanda frantically ran up to me, asking if I knew how to find the American Cafe where they play CNN. “Why? What’s wrong?” I asked. She waved her hand in front of my face. “Where have you been?” She asked, before adding, “We got bombed.”

The two TVs I had access to were on the other side of the campus, and I was standing next to a very remote payphone in the stairwell to my dorm room. From the look on Yolanda’s face, I knew every phone would be tied up soon. Jen ran by me in tears, which told me it was worse than I thought. So I called my dad.

My dad had a very unique way of sharing news. Small things were urgent, upsetting. “We’re out of Diet Coke! Oh no! What do we do?” Big things were delivered matter-of-factly, with a shrug. “Well, Grandpa died.”

My dad stayed at home all day listening to TV and the radio, so he was command central. “Well, there was this plane … and then this other plane … and they don’t know where this other plane is … could you hold on? My bacon is done.”

I called my boyfriend Tim, who had a stutter, and he was so upset that he couldn’t get any words out and had to hand the phone to his roommate.

I called my mom, and to this day I tear up when I remember the tearful, tired way she said, “Stephie?”

And I called my Grandma, who is from the Greatest Generation and said nothing would stop her from getting on a plane to Florida later that month.

THEN I went to the TV room, which was completely packed. We had one 15 minute BBC news reel that played over and over. Jen and I huddled together on the couch and we must have looked terrified, because the Dean of the school sat between us, put his arms around us, and told us it would be okay.

2-week-old friendships that were just starting to form immediately leapt into lifelong bonds. Darren, Steve, Frank, Ray, Kevin and of course Jen became some of my best friends that day.

I went outside to chain smoke with Ian and Gina, and we watched the planes circle overhead on their way back to Heathrow, because no one was allowed to be in the air anymore. Douchebag Max walked by with a half-finished bottle of tequila, muttering, “Let’s get drunk,” something my friends and I still quote til this day.

And of course, the roof, something that both I appreciate and makes me roll my eyes 10 years later.

There are like 10,000 other little images and moments, and a million observations about being in Europe at the time that I could make, but I didn’t have access to television the first time around. I’m soaking in all this archived footage and released tapes and memorial coverage and finally starting to understand what all of you went through the first time around. Clearly, your story is more important than mine.

I read this one every year on 9/11, and I suggest you do the same.

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Harry Potter World Premiere

When I was in London in 2001, I roomed with this awesome girl named Kacy. She suggested Harry Potter  to me any time I needed a new book, but English majors can be dickishly superior about popular books, so I would always turn her down. That is, until I flew to Rome for Fall Break. I read the first one on the flight over and was so hooked that by the time we landed, I shelled out about 50,000 lire for an English version of book 2. After we got back, I locked myself in our room for about a week and finished books 3 and 4.

So when Kacy asked me if I wanted to go to the World Premiere a few days later, I said sure. For some reason, I thought we were going to watch the movie. Little did I know that we were heading down to Piccadilly Circus at 10 in the morning to watch them set up and hopefully grab seats in the grandstands.

We ended up hanging out with this kid named Simon who was dressed like Harry. All the reporters wanted to interview him, so that day you could see Kacy and I grinning in the background like fools on channels all over the world, including Telemundo. We were there so long that we ended up flirting with the bobbies and got wristbands to the grandstands–second row, right in front of the door!

I actually took home one of the posters below and kept it in my room til the end of the semester. If I had known what I know now, I would have paid to ship it home. Ugh.

We had primo seats to watch all the celebrities pose for the paparazzi. We only knew half of them, though. The little girl in front of us thought she was the shit as she haughtily explained who the people were. “She’s on Footballer’s Wives. He plays for Arsenal. Do you even know what Arsenal is?”

I had my boyfriend Tim’s camera, which took pictures on “film” that you had to “develop”. Also, you had to look though this little hole to see, and it did not zoom. So below are pictures of celebrities, some amazing and some awful. Some celebrities that were there that I didn’t get pictures of included Helen Hunt, Jessica Simpson and Ben Stiller.

I could show you which face is Daniel Radcliffe if I had MS Paint on this thing.

Hermione!

Ron!

Hagrid! Robbie Coltrane was so awesome, the crowd ended up chanting, “Robbie! Robbie!” over and over, and the paparazzi took tons of pictures of us.

Fuzzy J.K. Rowling!

Madame Hooch!

Fuzzy Warwick Davis!

Fuzzy Fergie!

Baby Spice!

STING! AGH!

The highlight of the night was when Daniel Radcliffe started walking toward the front door. “Harry! Harry!” we all yelled, as his publicist shielded him from us. But just when he seemed like he was heading our way, we noticed something out of the corner of our eye. “Harry! Harry! Ha-CHER! OH MY GOD IT’S CHER!”

Cher looked as excited to see us as we were to see her. She looked amazing up close. She high-fived tons of people, INCLUDING ME, and then I got the most awesome picture of the day … so awesome that when William (the receptionist at Regents) saw it, he said, “You bitch.”

So that’s my story of the first Harry Potter. And last night I saw the last one with Jen, Ron and Justin. It was amazing, and not just because Neville Longbottom kicked ass.

I showed Justin all the previous films over the past month or two, and it was great reliving the whole thing and getting to experience the last one with him sitting next to me. (Good thing; I needed a shoulder to cry on and Jen was too busy crying on Ron’s.) This has been a huge part of my life for the last ten years, and even though I knew how it ended, it was touching to see it brought to life by these actors we’ve watched for the last 10 years, too. The fact that the entire cast was on board for eight films is pretty remarkable.

Oh, and SPOILER ALERT: Continue reading

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Filed under Almost Famous, London

Smartjohn

Erin’s comment the other day (and this recently-discovered AMAZING 1996 article about Mira Sorvino) reminded me of something hilarious that happened in London. One of my friends in the dorms was this guy that we called SmartJohn because he had the most intimidating vocabulary. (One time during a good-natured argument, Macie said, “Shut up John! Gimme that dictionary; I’m gonna look up some big words to yell at you.”)

SmartJohn also had a backpack full of gadgets before it was cool to have gadgets. He was the first person I knew with a GPS (and this was before the iPod even, so we were like WHAT). He had a palm pilot with a teeny tiny keyboard that you folded into thirds. During Big Friday, I heard him mumble something about getting a close-up just before he whipped this 2-foot camera lens out of thin air like David Blaine.

One night we were eating a late dinner, and we were all excited to have food from Festus.* John had this grilled chicken sandwich and fries. Sometimes dudes just look pumped to eat their food, you know? John was literally licking his lips. He even hyped himself up for a good minute before he decided to dig in.

As he chewed, his face instantly fell. He looked up, horrified. But rather than, “This is gross,” or “This tastes like shit,” he yelled out with an angry ptew:

“ITS APPEARANCE IS ENTIRELY DECEIVING!”

And I laughed. So hard. I chortled vigorously.

*Longest footnote ever: Festus was my main man. He had a special grill in the corner of the cafeteria, and people would line up for miles and wait forever to eat his burgers and pizzas.

The first night at the dorms, I noticed that he kept asking his boss for a quick break to grab water, and the boss was blatantly ignoring him. So I ran outside, bought him a bottled water, and secretly gave it to him when it was my turn.

For the rest of the semester, any time he spotted me at the end of the line, he would yell out in his musical, possibly-Haitian voice, “Ste-Pha-Nie! What will you have?” I’d yell out my order (almost always a pizza), and by the time I got to the front of the line, it would be ready.

After the Tooth Incident where I couldn’t eat solid food for a week, I insisted on making my first meal a Festus pizza. This segues perfectly into a story about this girl we called “Donkey Butt”, but I’ll save that for another day. God, I miss London.

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Big Friday

You would think that during the four months we spent in London, we would find time to make it to all the big touristy landmarks. Not so much. By the end of the semester, my friends and I were all lamenting that we only had a week and a half left and too many sites to see. That’s when we decided to do as much as possible during our last Friday in London. We called it Big Friday.

Perhaps the only one more excited about Big Friday than us was the bird that pooped on Steve:

We didn’t go into the Met on Big Friday but this was one of our usual spots. It had a women’s bathroom so fancy that the boys snuck in to take pictures of it. There was a condom machine with flavors like popcorn and birthday cake. Hilarious. There was also a curry-flavored one and because of that, “curry” immediately became our code word for “doing it.”

The stop closest to our school was on Baker Street, made famous by the Gerry Rafferty song, the first Apple (Beatles) store, and of course Sherlock Holmes. It was pretty normal to bump into an impersonator on the way to get groceries or whatever.

When I went back to London a year later to visit my then-boyfriend, I took some time to just wander around the Baker Street station while he was at work. I adored that place.

Was this the Jubilee line? There was one line that was 100 times nicer than the others. Also it was full of cute boys:

You would think that being surrounded by cute boys would automatically make me more attractive. But nope, here I am fuggin’ it up at Buckingham Palace:

Below is Ian being adorable at Abbey Road. Years later, I bought a bulletin board at Target with that exact graffiti-covered image. I still kick myself for not writing on that sign. I could have been on a bulletin board from Target.

My boyfriend back home was obsessed with The Beatles and got me really into them, so I was psyched to finally see it. However, Abbey Road is incredibly busy and it’s hard to get that famous shot without an exasperated driver honking at you. It took a while but we finally got it. I was so excited that I actually detached my arm from my body. Notice the barefoot Kevin:

This was a week or so after George Harrison died so there were flowers and cards everywhere. George was my favorite Beatle, so it was the perfect time to be there and pay my respects.

Gratuitous cuteness:

Look kids, Big Ben! Parliament!

Look kids, Big Ben! Parliament!

That joke never got old. Another thing that never got old was the “Humps for __ Yards” road signs:

Up next: Trafalgar Square!
Kevin and I chase pigeons, tourists look on in disapproval.

More gratuitous cuteness:

Below is an awesome picture of Kevin, and you can’t tell from the scan but it’s also the most gorgeous candid windblown picture of me ever taken. In London I had long hair for the first time in a decade, and after the Ireland Incident it was so nice to get a makeover and chop it off. I always knew when Kevin was doing laundry because he would wear that purple sweater with a pair of orange swimming trunks.

Did you know that if you go to an embassy, you’re technically in that country? Here’s Kevin and I enjoying Canada:

 

OMG it’s Jen! Hi Jen!

 

 

Gratuitous cuteness in Hyde Park:

“Whatcha doin guy?” “Oh, just hanging out with this bike on my head…”

After the Big Friday Tour, everyone went out for a pub crawl. This was right after I got back from Ireland, so I was suspicious of pub crawls and opted to stay home and drink red wine with Ian. Hours later, Jen and Ray slooowly led a friend of ours back up to the room. He puked in a trash can for 15 minutes, took the bag and straight up dropped it out of the second-story window before we could stop him. Big Friday ended with a bang, or rather a sploosh. Big Friday was the best.

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Filed under Adventures, London, Picture Pages

This Guy …

Can you believe this guy?

Just kidding; it’s his birthday. Happy birthday, Steve!

I just asked him if he was going to celebrate his “Super Sweet 27″ and he said:

“Oh totally. Omarion is performing.”

… which is probably the second funniest thing he’s ever said to me. I can’t get over it. Oh my god.

Have a great one, Steve. You are awesome.

(Photo – my favorite of these guys, hands down – appears courtesty of Jen, who took this the day we all went shopping in Camden Town. I love this pic so much. Fun times.)

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Filed under London

Rome, Capri and the One Punch Rule

My dad is out of the hospital with his leg intact; thank you for the prayers and support. Here are the rest of those Italy pictures.

Our trip to Italy actually began and ended in Rome. But before I jump into the pictures, I need to tell you about the Jersey Boys’ revolutionary philosophy, the One Punch Rule.

Basically, the One Punch Rule would give men permission to punch a woman in the face. But just one woman, one time. Then you would have to register with the government and cash in your One Punch.

It makes sense, when you think about it. Women can be pretty low sometimes. So if your special lady decides to gamble away your money, cheat on you with your best friend, etc., you could (by law) give her a good one right in the kisser. Jen and I thought this was hysterical and were not offended at all. * Some actions deserve a punch in the face, and speaking from experience, punching a girl in the face when she deserves it feels intoxicating.

The reason I’m telling you this is because as our plane was taking off on the way to Rome, we hit some turbulence and the plane was shaking to a terrifying degree. I did what I normally do: close my eyes, grip the armrests and cry on the inside.

Ray, however, turned to Jen and said, “Jen – I think you’re awesome… you’re like the coolest girl I’ve ever met… but if this plane goes down, I’m using my One Punch on you. I have to do the One Punch before I die. I’m sorry.”

~~~*~~~

Okay so, Rome. One of the first things we did was visit the Vatican.

And guess what we had the audacity to do? You guessed it: climb to the top.

That dome part at the top doesn’t exactly even out in the inside… you have to bend yourself sideways like a V-8 commercial for about 3 flights of stairs, with teeny little holes in the wall for breathing. I literally passed two people having almost-heart attacks.

The Vatican was nice enough to install an elevator at the very top. All around the edge of the roof were statues of various saints. The space in front of the elevator, however, was empty. We convinced Frank to go stand in it, and naturally he was doing this:

… right when an elevator full of hardcore Catholics arrived at the roof. Serious stinkeyes all around.

~~~*~~~

After that, we had the pleasure of participating in the shittiest walking tour that Italy has to offer. This Brazilian guy named Paolo promised to take us around teach us about Rome.

However, Paolo had trouble speaking both English and Italian. He also brought his girlfriend with us and talked to her the whole time. So basically, we all paid eighteen bucks (or 8 billion lire) to tag along on Paolo’s date.

We did see a few cool things, including the Mouth of Truth. Supposedly if you think of a lie and stick your hand in, the mouth will bite you. I bragged to everyone that I thought of a lie, but honestly I was too scared.

Here is some stuff (I was too pissed at Paolo to pay attention):

The breaking point for our tour, however, came when we arrived at the Coliseum. First Jen and I had to deal with various obscene come-ons from the fake Roman guards, who apparently spend their entire day chain-smoking and whistling at chicks.

So Paolo stopped in front of the Coliseum and started telling us about it.

“Aren’t we going to go in?” we asked.

“No no no, I can tell you everything from out here,” Paolo said, fumbling through a tour book. “Okay. Have you ever seen the movie Gladiator?”

I think Ray flat-out walked away at that point. Later we came back by ourselves and went inside.

I hate to be a buzzkill, but it was smaller than I imagined it would be. We ended up sitting at the top for a while to eat PB&Js.

And what did we discuss while sitting in one of the greatest landmarks in the entire world?

Truckasaurus vs. Robosaurus. Obviously.

~~~*~~~

Up next, we went to Capri.

Ask Frank how that went.

~~~*~~~

So after Venice, Florence and Sienna, we came back to Rome for the flight home. We ended up stopping at a few more cool spots, like the Trevi Fountain. This is where tourists come to throw in a coin and make a wish. I have some pictures of us but they turned out pretty butt-ugly. So here is a postcard:

Another site that you will only see a postcard of is the Sistine Chapel. It is pretty tacky and gaudy. Like the statue of David, we were not allowed to take pictures. Unlike the statue of David, they had more than one tour guide enforcing this rule. I got a crick in my neck staring at these dudes:

That was one of those moments where I tried as hard as possible to absorb the memory. I mean, I still can’t believe I was there.

~~~*~~~

One memory I don’t have a picture or postcard of, but will always cherish, is the smoking porch of our hostel. I was the only smoker in our group so I spent a lot of time sitting around with strangers.

One night I sat at the little card table with an English girl, a Scottish girl, a Canadian girl, a Kiwi lady and a gay Frenchmen, and we all traded stories about date-rapey Italian men.

~~~*~~~

I believe our last night was when we went to the Piazza de Spagna. This was another one of those spots where Europeans go to just lay around, play the guitar and drink wine.

We mostly talked to our Kiwi buddies and the guy who played “Wonderwall” on the guitar, but I have to say it’s the best party I’ve ever been to and I can’t believe Romans get to do it every day.

When in Rome, indeed.

~~~*~~~

* My ex-boyfriend told me that after this conversation, Frank told him I was “too cute to punch in the face.” I honestly can’t think of a better compliment. Thanks Frank! ;)

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Filed under Adventures, London, Picture Pages

Venice, Florence and Sienna

In belated honor of Earth Day, I thought I’d show you some of my favorite parts of the planet. First up: Venice. This is without a doubt the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. It will probably be underneath melted glaciers by the time you are ready for retirement, so I would book your tickets soon. Happy Earth Day!

Note to Boys: Despite all my mixed feelings about marriage, I would say yes to anyone if they proposed to me here. Compulsive gambler? Alcoholic? Deadbeat? Yes, yes and yes. Doesn’t matter. I do. Venice just does it for me.

A city without cars is so weird and yet so right. Sure, they have moving trucks and a few other helpful vehicles, but even the taxis and ambulances are boats. The streets are all narrow and windy and it makes you feel like you’re on another planet.

You can’t tell from this picture, but I’m wearing my “I Survived Catholic School” T-Shirt. I actually went to public school and I just thought the shirt was funny. However, I forgot how many Catholics would be running around Italy. I only got the stinkeye once, to my knowledge.

This was the view from our hotel room. When we went to the hotel, the lady took one look at us and rolled her eyes.

“You are American.”

The boys nodded and asked for a room. One room. For five people. She gave the boys a once-over and flashed a “hussy” glare at me and Jen.

“Here is key,” she sighed, clearly expecting the worst. “No drink-ay; no ba ba ba.”

We are still trying to figure out what exactly “ba ba ba” means, though this quickly became our favorite go-to joke.

Nothing sets the mood for ba ba ba like a romantic 5-person gondola ride!

The most fascinating part of our hotel room was the toilet/shower combination. Or as my old roommate called it, “common f*cking sense.”

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but the gelato (Italian ice cream) was so delicious that we ended up buying peanut butter, jelly and bread. This way we could spend our entire food budget on gelato. Teamwork at its finest!

And oh yes, there was more gelato in Florence:

In Florence, we took an amazing walking tour. Props to Jen for finding the flyer and demanding that we go because it was reccommended by Rick Steves. This tour totally made up for Paolo’s appalling tour of Rome, which I will explain some other day.

In Florence, we saw amazing art and gorgeous buildings. I wrote all of the names down somewhere but hey, you can google them. You’re on the Internet right now, after all. So here’s a crazy church:

A god going pee-pee in a fountain:

The one about rape:

And of course, Michelangelo’s David. We weren’t supposed to take pictures of it but everyone totally was. They had one poor guy running from tourist to tourist, clapping his hands and crying “Hey hey hey! No!” I just waited until he was on the other side of the room.

I never thought art would take away my breath the way David did. I can’t describe what it feels like to see it in person, so you should just go. But for now, enjoy this picture. I like the angle I shot here; it makes it look like he has his finger in his mouth, all “Hee hee, I’m naked.”

Jen turned out to be the Italy MVP. She suggested that while in Florence, we take a day trip to Sienna which was supposedly “really pretty”. It totally was and it was worth the train ride. Steve ditched us that day to go to Pisa and stare at a tower for six hours.

One of the best things about Europe is that it is full of gorgeous parks and historical hotspots where hundreds of people come to just lay around and chill out. You don’t see that much in the states but I am convinced it’s the way to go.

Once we were relaxed to the max, we had a flash of insanity and decided to climb the tower. THIS tower:


Oh yes we did. On these stairs:

Once we got to the top, however, I was blown away. It was truly the most amazing view I’ve ever had, and probably will ever have.

We took pictures of each other high-fiving and stuff, but we were so sweaty and gross after that climb. I need permission before I post pictures of my friends like that, especially if I plan on cropping myself out of them. So here is the view:

Up next: Rome!

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Filed under Adventures, London, Picture Pages

France! Too Much Booty In The Pants!

All those Bs from The Hills running around Paris made me nostalgic, and I’ve been babysitting a scanner so I had some time to digitize all these pictures.

(And by “some time” I mean a lot. Scanning is exhausting and feels so much more ancient than it should. So I will spare you my usual long-winded yackity yack.)

I went to Paris with these three dudes in 2001:

I roomed with Crystal, who sat next to me on that first flight to London, and some other girl. Lauren? She looks like a Lauren. We’ll call her Lauren.

This is probably my favorite picture ever:

NSFW OMG!

The biggest surprise about the Mona Lisa is that it’s tiny. Actual size, below:

Okay, I lied. THIS is my favorite picture ever. Poor Lauren:

“Are you looking for Jeeem?”

If you’ve ever seen National Lampoon’s European Vacation, then you know the Arc de Triomphe is surrounded by a circular road with no crosswalks. The Jersey boys straight up threw me into oncoming traffic to get to the other side. It was like Frogger – oop, is that racist? I’m French, I can say it. I have to tell you, for all those rumors about French people having an attitude, we didn’t get honked at once. Everyone just stopped for us politely. On the way home, we realized there were underground tunnels.

I loved these stairs:

This is the night Nosferatu showed me his fish skeleton:

The front of the Eiffel tower is a fun place to hang. And I lied again; every picture with Frank is my favorite picture.

The last morning we were totally over Paris and wanted to go home, but they wouldn’t let us switch our tickets. We debated just sitting at the station and napping, but then I got all mom on them and forced them to go to church.

And see Ray? Wasn’t it worth it just to meet a new friend? Do you and that pigeon still keep in touch?

Later this week I will try to do Italy. Not the Lindsey Lohan way. Just picture-wise. Oh, someone in the room just suggested I do the Amsterdam pics tomorrow since, you know, and I just dislocated my eyeball from rolling it so hard. I am so French.

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Filed under Adventures, London, Picture Pages

Bionic Ray

My very dear friend Ray was recently in a terrible car wreck. Thankfully he is alive and okay, but he broke both of his arms and had to get airlifted to a hospital. (Frank asked him if he called the pilot “Goose”, which is awesome.) Ray is incredibly resilient and more importantly, he’s hilarious. So he’ll be just fine.

However, this is Ray’s arm:

I want to state again for the record that Ray is a dear, dear friend and we go way back. And when Ray’s robot parts develop their own brain and begin taking over the world, I hope we can become friends, too.

So to Ray’s Arm, when it reads this in 2030: it’s nice to meet you and (excuse the pun) shake your hand.

Seriously Ray, you are amazing and we are all glad you’re okay. And seriously Ray’s Arm: Friend. FRRRRIEND.

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“Who’s Ready To Blow Some Pirates?”

There were never any good old days,
They are today, they are tomorrow.
It’s a stupid thing we say,
Cursing tomorrow with sorrow.

– Gogol Bordello, Ultimate


Okay, time for my Adventures In New Jersey. Here we go:

The Flight

I have to say that my flight to New Jersey was, without a doubt, the best flight I have ever taken in my life – and it was free! I had the very first seat on the plane. For the first time ever, I did not have a dumb-ass layover at dumb-ass O’Hare. I had a great book to read. It was sunny and pretty outside. We had a perfect view of Manhattan when we flew in, and the flight attendant sat next to me and pointed out celebrities’ backyards. We arrived a half-hour early, exactly when Steve was pulling into the parking lot. My phone rang right when I got to Steve’s truck; it was my Grandma. She said, “I prayed that you would have a good flight. Did you?” Two thumbs up for Jesus and Grandma.

Jersey City

Here is the thing about extra-big cities with trains and subways and lots of pizza places – they all remind me of London. I love the feeling I get from those places, but it doesn’t wow or overwhelm me the way it used to. You know what did wow me? The pizza Steve bought me, and Bridget’s brownies. That’s the first real food I’ve eaten in months. Delightful. Jersey City reminded me of Marylebone. Frank’s apartment was pretty cool. We hung out for a while, and then headed to Brooklyn for the Found party.

Brooklyn

Like I said, New York just reminds me of London. Scaffolding, subways, street vendors, fun purses, etc. It’s wonderful and fun, but since I’m from Missouri people expect me to go apeshit and gasp at everything and I just don’t. My city is probably bigger than yours, after all.

I DID love navigating through subway tunnels and running from train to train with Steve and Frank – it was such a familiar feeling and I was kind of overwhelmed with flashbacks and great memories of a perfect time in my life.

We stopped at the World Trade Center station, though, and that was sad and weird. Ground Zero looks exactly the same except there are some cranes and fences. I’m shocked that they haven’t done anything with it yet, and proud of New Yorkers for being brave enough to see that every day.

Found Party!

I still have blisters from the walk. However, Frank was a good tour guide and we got there just in time to see the show. Davy was nice enough to put us on the list. I was on The List at a New York party! We felt special, like the little boy in Almost Famous. The show was hilarious and Steve and Frank had a good time, which made me happy. Afterwards we had drinks and watched people play bocce ball and I got to spend time with Davy, who is like the nicest person you’ll ever meet.

Frank’s Place

I used to think I slept in London because I had no stress and a boyfriend. Now I know for sure that it was all of that city walking. I slept like a baby that night. The next morning Frank took us out for the Pancake Wrap, which is just as gross and delicious as it sounds: bacon, eggs and cheese, wrapped up in a big-ass pancake. It was glorious:

The Pancake Wrap makes me think of “The Pancake Rap”, which is not an actual song… just my idea for one. It would be performed by old school dudes like The Sugarhill Gang, and they would yell out things like “PANCAKE!” and “MMMMMAPLE!” Feel free to post your own lyrics in the comments section.

Steve’s Place

Steve’s place is farther away and is where I stayed for the rest of my trip. Usually when I visit a guy friend, I prepare myself for a messy apartment and overall grossness… but Steve’s place was really clean and felt like an actual home. His TV is as hot as mine. And look:

Who is that? Is that my dog from heaven? No, that is Steve’s roommate’s dog, Samantha. Samantha is the spitting image of my old dog Midnight, only twice as big. She looked, acted and smelled exactly like my old dog. I’m surprised Samantha didn’t make me sad… but she was so big that it made me laugh more than anything else. It truly felt like I was hugging a giant cartoon version of my old dog. How can you beat that?

Blackbeard’s Cave

Steve and I played mini-golf at Blackbeard’s Cave, and then kicked serious ass in the arcade. We got like a million tickets, thanks to Steve’s “Wheel of Fortune” skills. I traded my tickets for a heart-shaped bracelet and a finger puppet. Steve got an eye patch and a pirate-shaped bubble blower, which is when he said:

“All right… who’s ready to blow some pirates?”

That was the best thing that happened on my trip. In addition to mini-golf and the arcade, Blackbeard’s Cave also had a childrens amusement park. To my delight, I discovered that I weigh less than the limit for almost all of the little kiddie rides. The only ride I am too heavy for is the one where you ride through the woods in tiny little canoe, past a bunch of random statues like giraffes and… a T-Rex eating a skeleton? It looked so sweet. One day, you guys. One day I will ride in that tiny little canoe. The kiddie park is also home to the most terrifying trash cans ever invented:

Overall, my trip to Jersey was super fun. Here are some other highlights:

  • Steve and I watched Season 3 of The Office in its entirety. Despite living thousands of miles apart, we can now say we’ve watched every episode of The Office together (at least until tonight, when the new season starts).
  • Steve ignored a “closed street” sign and drove through, earning serious ticket-writing hand motions from the cop around the corner.
  • I caused a sexy scene in a stairwell in Brooklyn, and got admonished by a waiter.
  • I caused another sexy scene in a surprisingly clean co-ed bathroom (also in Brooklyn) and got high-fived by like three people.
  • Frank bought me Pocky – it’s become a tradition when we visit each other. Thanks Frank!
  • A boy kissed me and remarked, “I can’t believe you’re real!” I told this story to Vee and now she says it to me every day at work.
  • I dashed barefoot across the World Trade Center subway station. Gross, but necessary.
  • Steve and I discovered and mastered the World’s Most Complicated SeeSaw.
  • Steve spent our entire hour at the playground laying on a slide in the shade.
  • I went on the swings for the first time in over a decade and feared for my life.
  • I called the Wawa grocery store “Wamu”, which made Steve laugh.
  • Steve took me to work at his radio station. Steve’s job is very cool.
  • Steve saw two female co-workers with the company trailer and said, “I bet they’re going to crash that.” They crashed it.
  • I attempted to stalk Ray at a Barnes & Noble, and got made fun of by two old ladies who work there. I miss Ray terribly.
  • Steve bonded with a stranger on the subway over the awesomeness of Surf Taco.
  • I demanded to go to Surf Taco, and Steve took me there twice. He introduced me to The Maverick, which is delicious.
  • Steve and I are equally amazing at Connect 4.
  • On the airport shuttle back to my car, I got asked on a date by a pilot who looks exactly like Michael Cera from Superbad. And yes, he looked as adorable/ridiculous as Michael Cera would if he dressed up in a pilot uniform. I said yes. That’s where I‘ll be tomorrow night.
  • And this hasn’t happened yet, but Frank will most likely leave me a smart-ass comment after reading the above bullet.

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Nosferatu

At my school in London, there was a giant dormitory with about 200 rooms. That was not where I lived. I lived in the overflow dorms – a tiny, top-secret haven called Oliver Hall.

To find Oliver Hall, you had to either go through the kitchen entrance with all of the cooks, or cut through the School of Psychotherapy – a long, often pitch-black hallway of classrooms that eventually became the hot gambling and/or make-out spot. Most kids in the dorms had no idea how to get to Oliver.

There were only 12 rooms in Oliver, so the 24 of us – even the ones who hated each other – because a close, tight-knit family. Some of my best friends are people I met in Oliver. Jen was there. So were Steve, Frank and Ray. So were a lot of people we adored, like Eva, Macie, Kacy and Antionette.

There was also a guy who… oh, man. I don’t even know how to go about this. I don’t want to type his name… let’s just call him Nosferatu. Jen named him Nosferatu because that’s exactly how he skulked around, clawing at thin air like an old silent movie vampire:

I don’t really know how to describe him without being mean. He was nice to me most of the time, but there was something just kind of off about him, and he would often unintentionally freak us out.

Example: during a big party at the school pub, he squeezed into our booth to say hello just as someone put “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the jukebox. He completely spazzed out, singing along with so much excitement that he looked like he was having a seizure, and elbowed me in the chin during the guitar solo.

Or: in Paris, when we were out to dinner with a big group of students. Within 30 seconds of getting our plates, I looked up and saw Nosferatu clutching a knife and fork, smiling at me, with a perfectly intact and perfectly stripped fish skeleton sitting in the center of his plate where his food had just been.

I think the description that best sums him up came from that guy that I dubbed “Viper”, because he looked like DJ’s rocker boyfriend on Full House. One day in the refectory, Nosferatu walked by and Viper remarked, “Man, all he is missing is the scar from the lobotomy.”

Nosferatu befriended the popular kids in London, and soon ditched us to sit in the back of the bus or go to the posh expensive clubs. We would often joke about how he was too cool for us now. It made us feel better about laughing at his mysterious, chilling antics.

One of the last nights in London, however, I was hanging out with Steve and Ray in their room at the end of the hall (affectionately referred to as “The Opium Den”). Steve left to go make a phone call, and Ray and I both picked up magazines and started reading, because we were the kind of friends who could do that.

After a couple of minutes, we heard a light, gentle tap on the door. Then, “HEY GUYS!”

Ray and I jumped, and saw Nosferatu heading into the room with a shoebox. “My mom made sugar cookies. Do you want one?”

He opened the box and flashed the cookies at me. They had icing and looked perfect, like they were from a bakery. I nodded.

This is why I can’t make fun of Nosferatu without feeling bad: to this day, that is the most delicious cookie I have ever eaten in my entire life. Words cannot describe it. Food from home was like gold in the dorms, and it was extremely rare for people to share their stash. And these were Mom Cookies. I was really touched, so when he made himself at home and sat down across from me, I didn’t mind.

“I’m going to miss you guys,” he said.

“I’m going to miss you too, [Nosferatu],” I slurred, still drunk with love from the cookie.

“I mean, we’re in LONDON. And you guys… you’re my NEIGHBORS. That’s special, right? We’re neighbors. Neighbors in London. That is such an important thing.”

I nodded. Ray grunted and turned a page.

“We’re always going to have this bond, you know?” Nosferatu continued. “And when we see each other in a couple of years, in heaven…”

I don’t remember what he said next because out of the corner of my eye, I saw Steve walking in the room. He froze mid-stride, looked at me with wide eyes and mouthed, “In HEAVEN?!?” Then he spun around and left immediately, before anyone else could see him.

Then Nosferatu stood up and began walking towards me – yes, like this:

And he was sing-songing, “Good neighbor. You’re such a good neighbor…” And he gave me a big hug and a wet kiss on the cheek. Then he left.

By this point, Ray was curled up in the fetal position on his bed, so he couldn’t see the hug. As soon as Nosferatu turned the corner, Ray peered out from behind his bed and whispered, “Are you okay?”

“I think so.”

“I saw him coming for you, but for some reason I couldn’t move.”

“That’s okay. I couldn’t, either.”

“I’ve never been frozen with fear before. Interesting.”

“Mmm.”

“You just got hot action from [Nosferatu].”

“Shut up.”

The we heard footsteps running down the hall, and Steve burst in the room and gasped, “IN HEAVEN???”

I am going to Jersey next month to see those boys and I’m so psyched. I doubt we will run into Nosferatu, and if we don’t then that’s okay. Nosferatu and I will meet again.

In a couple of years.

In heaven. Holy crap!

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Filed under Conversations, Favorite Stories, London

International Relations

If you ever meet a boy in Europe, be sure to pose for some pictures by yourself.

I’m not mad at him anymore. I haven’t talked to him in forever, but I’d like to think that he thinks this is really funny.

Also, I ran five miles today! And Lost starts tonight, right Jen? Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!!!

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Filed under London, Picture Pages

And That’s The Way We Do It (It’s The Lou in a Box)!

Okay, time for the annual Jersey Boys entry. Not that there’s anything obligatory about it – this is always my favorite entry of the year. Maybe they should visit around Thanksgiving next time so I don’t peak so early. Oh well; it’s so worth it.

I’ve already written a lot about why Steve and Frank (and Ray and Darren) are so awesome, and why I love them so much. It’s right here. At any rate, they came to visit again and it was fantastic.

Ron, whose go-getter attitude never ceases to amaze me, immediately brought out a laptop and a few newspapers to plan the weekend itinerary. He forced us to vote on activities with a “Huzzah!” or an “Eeeehhhh…”. We had a pretty massive list by the time we were done.

One thing we never got to do, which I plan on doing someday before I die, is SHOOTING OFF AN UZI. Did you know it’s actually legal to do this? There was an ad in the Riverfront Times. I think you pay by the hour (plus ammo) and it was expensive so we nixed it. Nevertheless, this is my new dream. The first person to throw me a surprise birthday party at the Uzi Range gets to be my boyfriend. Kaboom.

Since the Uzi was out, we had to settle for SkyZone. The first time I saw an ad for this on TV, I started laughing so hard. I made Ron look it up online, and when he played the SkyZone video for everyone, they screamed and laughed, too. It is a GYM FULL OF TRAMPOLINES! THE ENTIRE FLOOR IS TRAMPOLINES! THE WALLS ARE TRAMPOLINES! It is so awesome!

They give you supportive shoes and you have to sign a release, but it is so worth it. It’s the house I dreamed about when I was in Kindergarten – we were literally bouncing off of the walls. So fantastic!

Check out Steve and Frank attempting (and later executing) the Impossible Mid-Air High Five:

Here is Jen being adorable:

And here’s Joe being awesome!

Katie wins the “Tiger Endurance Award” for jumping (and smiling) for the full hour, while the rest of us needed a break in the first five minutes.

The next night was Frank’s birthday, so we went to the Pink Galleon. Some people give the Pink Galleon shit, but I believe that any place with a pirate theme AND pink pool tables is a winner. Afterwards we went to Graham’s Grill for a Cajun dinner, and we stumbled across Steve Ewing from The Urge putting on a random solo performance.

New Years was pretty cool. Nick’s girlfriend had a party. I think the highlight of the party was when Frank taught us how to break out the bottom of a beer bottle just by slapping the top of it:

Plus: Super loud midnight celebrations!

Dangerously delicious drinks!

AND true love!

Later on some of us stopped by Warren’s, where a party was already in full swing. Steve and Frank got to experience Tony at his drunkest, and I got to party with Ty, Sara, Oldham, and a bunch of other friends I haven’t seen in a while. Steve and Frank also got to cross another goal off of their list – “Start a fake band”.

We were up til about 6 in the morning, so I consider New Year’s a success. It also marks the second time in a week that I had to walk to Jen and Ron’s house to get my car. While I was gone, Frank and Steve filled up the apartment with farts, just to see if I would notice the smell when I got back. They underestimated my current living situation, as I was unfazed. However, I’m shocked that my Chia pet is still alive.

The day before they left, we went to IHOP (where Ron made our waitress cry). I always forget about the awesomeness of IHOP until I hang out with Jen. She is so right on. We ate more than anyone should ever eat ever, so then we went to Laumeier Sculpture Park to walk it off.

Needless to say, it took about 30 seconds for someone to bend over in front of this one and made the obligatory “World’s Largest Anal Beads” joke.

Here is where I used to do my homework every week!

The sun was setting when we got there, so by the time we made it through the woods it was dark as hell. It was creepy in a fun way, like when you’re playing Ghost in the Graveyard or something.

Other events of the weekend:

  • Frank calls Stephie from the airport to say that he’s lost, and they are in front of a Lee’s Fried Chicken.
  • Frank and Steve attend a New Year’s Eve “Practice Party”, which includes a fake midnight toast and everything.
  • Frank and Steve do a bunch of other cool things that Stephie missed because she was at home sleeping off the flu, DAN.
  • Frank discovers the ultimate St. Louis party staple, Schnucks Seven-Layer Dip.
  • Stephie and Jen venture out into the cold for firewood. Steve and Frank offer to make hot cocoa and muffins.
  • Frank correctly uses the term “hoosier” when Stephie places a working TV on top of a broken one.
  • Tony moons us. More than once.
  • We eat at “Mexican Restaurant”.
  • Frank immediately recognizes “Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story”, even though it was on for 2 seconds and it was during a childhood flashback scene.
  • Tony takes a dump so hardcore that it wakes up Steve and Frank.
  • We watch Seasons 1 AND 2 of The Office. We quote it every ten seconds. It never stops being funny.
  • Frank and Stephie philosophize about love under the watchful eye of pirate mannequins.
  • Tony almost runs over Ty; murders shrubbery in front yard.
  • Jen’s little brother tries to make out with a girl in her bathroom, and actually puts a towel on the door handle.
  • Jen nicknames her brother “Awesome Choices McGee”. Frank and Steve have never been prouder of anyone in their entire lives.
  • Steve fills every single moment of silence by singing “Dick in a Box”.
  • Within 30 minutes, both Ty and Tony intentionally pull Stephie into a fart cloud.
  • We name Jen’s pet cow “Pancakes”.
  • Steve blows up a queen-sized air mattress. At 3 in the morning. Drunk. Inside of my car:

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Filed under Adventures, London, Picture Pages

Bad Poetry

So it’s the five year “anniversary”. Does the word “anniversary” creep you guys out as much as it’s creeping me out? It doesn’t seem right.

I’m sorry that I don’t have a “9-11 Montage” for you like everyone else. I wasn’t around when it happened; I was in Europe with no TV and I missed all of the panic and hysteria. Whenever I talk about it with people who were here, something happens to them… their faces and eyes change slightly, into an expression that I don’t really understand. It doesn’t seem right to talk about how much it “affected me”.

I mean, it did affect me, but not to the same degree as anyone in the States, or anyone from that area, and especially not anyone who was actually there or knows someone who was. It was like watching footage of the Tsunami or Katrina or the earthquake in Afghanistan… other moments that we should “never forget” even though it seems like we already have. But I’ll say this… I could have never gotten though that time without the Jersey Boys, Jen and Kevin.

I’ve only written one thing about 9-11. I was going to post it today, but when I started typing it up I realized the following things:

1. I need to change the ending. It’s only fair.

2. I finally put my finger on why I fell in love with Brian… he always had a story to tell me. Those stories were always funny when I was sad, comforting when I was scared, etc. It’s the same reason I fell for TSGoC, too. It’s nice to finally realize that… it gives me something to look for the next time around.

3. I am rooting hardcore for World Peace. Mostly for the obvious reasons, but also because terrorism reminds me of my ex-boyfriend.

So here is the only thing I wrote about 9-11. It’s not good – but nothing about that day was, so I feel okay about sharing my crap poetry with you:

You were pointing out the scar on your knuckle
From the time you got a wrench stuck on your finger
When it suddenly hit me…
It was supposedly the beginning of “The End”
And yet, there we were,
Sitting against ivy-covered bricks on a London rooftop
On the exact spot where Nazis dropped bombs in World War II,
Or at least that’s what the plaque read in the cafeteria.
You put your jacket over my shoulders because
It was September and it was getting cold.
We didn’t talk at all about the assigned topic;
We talked about being so far from home,
And we laughed about braces and baby fat,
And we reminisced about love,
And we watched the clouds move so fast
That they seemed to fall below the edge of the roof.
For once, I stopped wondering if everything had changed forever.
I only wondered how on earth you got a wrench stuck on your finger
And how they got it off,
And when the moon would pop out from behind the clouds
Or if we’d see it at all that night.
For a moment I stopped trying to picture tomorrow
And everyone who would be there.
I could only think about how scared an eight year old would be
With a bone saw from the morgue that close to his finger,
And I thought about how your eyes change color every day
And how maybe I could love you.
We tend to spin time into what we want to see
The way a cowboy twirls a gun
Around his finger.
But the moments that stick and inevitably scar
Are unforeseen and never fail
To captivate me.

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“I feel like getting some french bread. Wanna go to France?”

Last night Brad took me to the Tivoli to see Little Miss Sunshine and oh my god, you guys. Oh my god oh my god you guys you guys. It was so fantastic. Absolutely perfect. I haven’t felt like that since the first time I saw Amélie (where the entire theater burst into applause at the end and we couldn’t stop smiling the entire way home).

Go see Little Miss Sunshine. Seriously.

Proust gets brought up a lot in the film. Every time I think about Proust, I think about that time in Paris when the Jersey Boys and I went looking for Jim Morrison’s grave. We got lost in Père Lachaise and wandered around for like four hours. We stumbled across Proust and Moliére’s graves, and as an English major I tried to convince everyone (including myself) that their graves were just as important and cool. They weren’t. It was dorkorama and I knew it.

We gave up and right as we were about to leave, some guy appeared out of nowhere and whispered, “Are you looking for Jeeem?” Then he led us behind and across a few graves to a secret little hiding spot, and for a second we thought we were going to get mugged, but there he was. Jim frickin Morrison. I didn’t have a candle to light so I left him a cigarette. Proust. Psshh.

I am once again on my THIRD DAY of NO SLEEP, so I am pretty much the opposite of Little Miss Sunshine at the moment. After work I plan on turning off my phone, taking some pizz-ills and crashing. I don’t want to hear any bitching and I don’t want any drunk people banging on my window, please. Yes, I miss you. Yes, I would rather be out. No, I’m not going to the bars with you. Stephie no party. Stephie sleepy.

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The Love You Take is Equal To The Love You Make*

Ever since my relationship with Hippy Timmy (who taught me anything and everything about the Beatles, which alone made it fantastic) I’ve had a personal rule about the song “Imagine”. Whenever I hear it, I have to say or do something nice, usually to the first person I see. I figure that’s something John would have wanted.

When I was in London, something awful happened back in the States, and the entire world freaked out. London set out on a mission of love and peace and support… so naturally, we heard John Lennon everywhere we went.

I was shocked by the amount of homeless people I saw in London. I’d see three or four just on the walk from my school to the tube, and I never really got used to it. But there were regulars… like the guy with the dog outside the grocery store on Baker Street or the lady holding a baby at the McDonald’s on Edgeware.

But the man who totally blew my mind was Recorder Guy. I’d pass by him every day, this grown man who was forced to survive by playing “Greensleeves” on the recorder all day long. I mean, most of us learned how to do that when we were kids, and it’s scary to think that he’s forced to rely on that skill to live.

So one day, I was walking by the grocery store with Little Mom, and the store was blaring “Imagine” with all of the doors propped open. I opened my mouth to say something nice to her, but then I saw Recorder Guy. I reached into my pocket, felt around, and threw what I found into his hat. It turned out to be a ten or twenty pound note. I didn’t really look. It was all I had, so it was his. Never underestimate the power of the Imagine Rule.

After his reaction, which I’ll never forget, Little Mom and I started to walk away and she whispered, “Did you mean to do that?”

“It’s just this thing I have with “Imagine”, I explained, and as we made our way down the street I told her about my rule.

A couple of weeks later, I was walking down Baker Street and I heard the familiar melody of “Greensleaves” floating through the air. I searched through the crowd for Recorder Guy, and right as I spotted him, he glanced over at me and fumbled to change his tune.

And then I heard it… even though the pitch was off and he missed a few notes, he was playing my song. Our song. Recorder Guy had taught himself how to play “Imagine”.

I should a bit miffed that he learned how to “beat the system”, but it totally made my day. I made sure to stop by his hat whenever possible for the rest of my time in London, and it was worth every single pence.

Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day. So I want you all to pretend that you just heard “Imagine” and do something nice for the first person you see after you read this. It’s amazing how much a kind act for someone else can do so much for you, too.

* And YES, I know that Paul said this. But John and Paul always did work well together, for the most part. So.

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Filed under Adventures, Favorite Stories, London

Don’t Stop Me Now

When Jen and Ron got married a couple of years ago, the Jersey boys (plus Darren, minus Ray) came to town. After they left, Kevin wrote this great list of his favorite memories of the weekend. If I was as funny and concise as Kevin, I’d make a list of 83 memories, too. But I’m not, so I’ll just write about a few.

Unfortunately, the second that the boys pulled into St. Louis, their van broke down. They had been joking during their whole trip about the van being haunted, so maybe the ghost realized he was in the city where “The Exorcist” went down and bailed. Or the transmission blew. Whatevs. They happened to break down in the Hellmouth of the city where every single major road and interstate comes together, so it took a while to figure out where they were. All I have to say is, I hate Lee’s Fried Chicken:

Frank: We’re at I-44 and Gravois, in front of a Lee’s Fried Chicken.

Me: But those both run east and west. You can’t be. What else are you by?

Frank:
Um… Chippewa? I-70? There’s a Citco, a 7-11, and a Lee’s Fried Chicken.

Me: The hell? What road are you actually ON?

Frank: Um… Lee’s Fried Chicken?

Me:

Frank: Hello?

Me: (sighing) Can I just talk to someone who works there?

(Pause. Shuffling.)

Steve: Okay. Steph. We’re at Jefferson and I-55, right by a Lee’s Fried Chi-

Me:
Yeah, I’ve heard ALL ABOUT Lee’s fucking Fried Chicken, okay? Got it.

A few days later, we were crossing the street at the Loop and I caught Steve staring forlornly at the Church’s Chicken on the corner. “I miss Lee’s.” He pouted.

~~~*~~~

For some weird reason, people from the East Coast are obsessed with the Midwest and our farms. On the ride to St. Louis, the boys apparently got into a big fight about the art of cow tipping. Since St. Louis is one of the biggest cities in the country and considered actual civilization, we couldn’t help them test out their theories. The closest thing I could give them was a plastic cow at The Science Center:


That was the touristy day (a.k.a. Big Friday). We also went to Pin-Up Bowl at the Loop, ate awesome sandwiches in The Hill, explored Forest Park, etc. Hopefully Ron, Katie, Joe and I proved that we’re from an actual city full of awesome things to do – and no cows.

~~~*~~~

I live a couple of blocks away from Global Foods, which is this fantastic international grocery store that sells all of my favourite candy. Before the guys came to town, I went there to buy Frank a bunch of green Aero Bars for his birthday. I figured I’d get something for Steve and Ray, too. So, I gave them Giant Pocky, which I think gave Steve a boner:


Later on, they went with me back to Global for some Walker’s and McVitties. While we were there, we spotted the Yorkie Bar. IT’S NOT FOR GIRLS! Apparently this is a pretty popular campaign in the U.K., but we’d never heard about it, so when we spotted it on the shelves, we cracked up.

The back of the bar also insists that IT’S NOT FOR HANDBAGS. Needless to say, we bought one for Jen because she is hardcore.

~~~*~~~

Speaking of hardcore, we played Cranium one night, and even though Frank and Steve were one question away from winning, Jen and I swept through with a vengeance – proving once again that Team Papoose ain’t nothin to fuck with. Eat It!

The day of New Year’s Eve (which is always a weird thing to say, but that’s what it is), we relived the 75th Annual Thanksgiving Ultimate Frisbee Extravaganza. However, instead of Pilgrims vs. Indians, it was Pirates vs. Ninjas. Despite my love for ninjas, I was wearing my “Go Pirates!” hoodie, so I kind of had to be on the Pirates’ team. Unfortunately, we lost 2-1, but that just kind of proves my theory that ninjas are superior. That, and a 5’2 girl should never be forced to play against Frank and Ray.

Frank was the MVP, and he also won (lost?) for the injury of the year when Steve kicked him in the chest mid-air. Check out how effing hardcore Frank is:

We also stopped by my parents’ house for a brief history lesson. Steve is wearing my Dad’s Christmas present, I am wearing the greatest hat in the history of all time, and Frank and Ray are making Peter jealous because they have permission to play with the swords.



~~~*~~~

After dinner at Blueberry Hill, Jen had the awesome idea to go get gelato at a new place in Rock Hill.

When Jen, Steve, Frank, Ray and I went to Italy, we discovered the manna that is gelato. We ended up spending so much money on it that we were in danger of blowing our food budget. We unanimously decided to eat PBJs for the rest of the trip as to not interfere with gelato time.

I don’t have a pic of that night, but it looked kind of like this:

Afterwards, Niki had a great idea to check out Laughs on the Landing, an improv bar where my friend Mikey works, along with The Danger League. I’d never seen Mikey in action before – he was absolutely hysterical. He coined the catchphrase of the week: “Kittens are real and they’re everywhere!”

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Finally, Jen and Ron had an amazing New Year’s party once again. The DJs were spinning downstairs, a big fire was burning outside, and I was surrounded by the majority of my favorite people in the world.

Ray’s goal was to get Frank drunk enough to make out with the Christmas tree by 11:45. Alas, Frank’s casual observance of drunks over the years has made him smarter than us. Maybe next year. The boys had a big toast for the East Coast New Year… but hopefully, we showed them that the Central Standard Time Zone rocks just as hard. It was great to ring in the New Year with them.

And check out this fucking insane picture of me and Conor! Agh!

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All in all, the past two weeks have been the best that I’ve had in a long time. I plan on keeping this vibe going for the rest of the year.

And Ra, thank you so much for everything you said last night. That was awesome. I miss you a lot, and it was perfect having you in town for a while.

Also: Don’t blink, Ra. Ready? Don’t blink. Okay, one… two… don’tblink…

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Filed under Adventures, London, Picture Pages

Kittens Are Real and They’re Everywhere!

Usually I get holiday depression, but I think this year I might have a case of post-holiday blues. But considering the alternative, I’m glad to have them. It means I had a hell of a good time.

I said goodbye to Mark yesterday, Liz a few days ago, and I’m hanging out with Ra and Greg tonight. But the saddest goodbye by far was the Jersey boys.

Steve, Frank, and Ray (and also Darren, but he couldn’t come) are the funniest guys in the world, and I laughed nonstop for four days straight. There are a million funny stories to tell, as well as hysterical pictures to post, but I’ll do that some other day… today is the mushy sugar-coated entry, so get the tissues ready.

The memories that I have of Steve, Frank, and Ray are irreplaceable and hard to describe. They’ve been there for the best moments of my entire life: standing on top of the Eiffel Tower, mass at Notre Dame, wandering around the Louvre, climbing St. Peter’s Basilica, sneaking pictures of Michelangelo’s David, riding a gondola in Venice, hanging out in Amsterdam, staring at Stonehenge, sipping beer in London pubs, crossing Abbey Road, curling up in a blanket for Guy Fawkes Day fireworks, and so on and so on.

They’re also part of the select few who saw me right after Ex accidentally knocked my tooth out and I looked like Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber. And when 9/11 happened and I was away from my family, those guys became my family, and they hugged me and made me feel like everything was going to be okay. When I think about the most profound and life changing experiences of my life, I remember looking to my side and seeing Jen, Steve, Frank, and Ray.

So when they came to visit, it was the happiest I’ve been since the last time I saw them, and I’m not exaggerating at all. If Kevin and Darren had been here, then it would’ve been perfect because everyone I love from London would be here. But I’ll take practically perfect, for sure. And Kevin actually called us from Korea (!!!) out of the blue, and that was an awesome surprise.

Also, a round of applause is due for Jen and Ron… they had an amazing New Year’s party, tons of fun field trips and gatherings, and Ron totally stepped up to help with the van situation and I know the guys were extremely grateful.

My place was really hectic and crowded (and the bathroom was drenched, thanks to the Great Frank Tsunami of 2005), but I loved every second of it, and now my place just seems too clean and too empty and too quiet and too boring. I loved the mayhem and the chaos and the disorder and the squished car rides and the laughter and everything else, and I hope they come back someday soon and bring Darren with them.

All weekend, they kept buying me beers or paying for my dinner, insisting that I had done more than enough (they also bought me video Sudoku!). They kept thanking me over and over, but I don’t think they understand that they did more for me by just being here than I could ever do for them. Honestly, the only inconvenience of the weekend (besides Uncle Jay’s Dead Van) was the fact that I cried after they left.

I hope they know how much I love them, and that they mean the world to me. In the meantime, I guess it’s my turn. Jersey, here I come!!!

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Filed under Adventures, London