A Travellerspoint blog

London, where people are forced to leave


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London was never my town. To me it lacks the ambiance of Paris, the cultural richness of Rome, the political meaningfulness of Berlin or the beauty of Prague. My hotel is at the north end of Marylebone so I take the train to the tower of London. The castle is boring and uninviting and I leave sooner than expected, crossing the tower bridge and making my way back towards the hotel on the south bank. Passing London bridge, the Shard and Shakespeare’s globe. Visiting the Tate and having lunch there. Continuing along the wharf towards the London eye and the carnival surrounding it, missing a live performance by the Guilty Feminist by one day. Crossing Westminster bridge towards a scaffolding covered Big Ben tower which is no longer called that and wasn’t ever called that in the first place. Going up towards Trafalgar where young girls in risque outfits enjoy the first sun rays of the year that are too cold for my taste. Too early to retire I stroll around SoHo, back towards Piccadilly Circus, upwards to Oxford street, taking a bit of Hyde park along the way. About twenty years ago I had a blast in London. Exiting Victoria and Albert, I was walking along the many casinos there in the direction of Harrods. Asking one of the casinos about the entrance requirements, I met a girl that turned out to be the daughter of the casino owner. Rather than spending the night at a casino losing my money she took me to clubs which I - in a very contrary fashion - actually enjoyed. Something about her personality invigorated me, turning me from a bah-humbug introvert to a suave club-goer. A part of me wants to retrace my steps and see if the casino where we met is still there but I relent. Visiting it would not add to the memories, it can only take away. Everything looks worse in black and white is it not?

"Would look worse in Black and White"

"Would look worse in Black and White"

The hostel is full of long-stayers. A Belgium girl is in the bunk below me, she wants to become a music lyrics writer. She has no money and shares the single bed with a guy who works behind the bar below. Later I hear from others that they have been warned a couple of times about having sex together and will soon be told to find another hostel. Another girl is a local girl and she starts by saying that she doesn’t want to talk about Brexit. It is the same with all British I have met during my travels all over the world; ‘I don’t want to talk about Brexit, I know nothing about it’ and then giving a 10 minute monologue on why they think the Brexit is a bad idea, why it happened and what should happen now. This girl is no different. She blames the poor regions for voting pro Brexit for all the wrong reasons. I tell her I am pro Brexit too. She looks startled. I tell her that we should take all the pro Brexit voters, leave them on the Island, build one of Trump’s big walls around the island, cut them off from internet communications and import/export and just let them inbreed for 200 years. Those that voted ‘stay’ are welcome to move to Europe, I have three spare bedrooms for the first three that want to come over.

"How much would have been changed after 200 years?"

"How much would have been changed after 200 years?"

I doubt it is as simple as she says though, the poor voting for the wrong reasons. It is not a matter of wealth, people, rich and poor do usually just as they are told. By neighbors, by the press, by conventions. It is innate to our species. Perhaps there is an element of snobbery involved, the British seeing their once great ‘rule Britannia’ crumble into itself until nothing but a somber wet island remained that is not even recognized by the EU. Look at the headlines from 2017 in British newspapers:

  • You can’t bully us Mr Barmier
  • May’s Brexit threat to Europe
  • May eases Brexit fears but warns UK will walk away from ‘bad deal’
  • Theresa’s new FREE Britain
  • Cheers to a great British future

"Big wheel keep on turning"

"Big wheel keep on turning"

Reading these back you can’t help but think the British pro Brexit voters somehow believed the EU would be on its knees begging the UK to stay. But the truth is that the UK has not been relevant in the EU since the days of Thatcher. The EU has been a German thing ever since that country has reunited. Funnily enough growing strong because of their commitment to take in others that are worse off.

There are no worries in the in the streets though. People do not feel it in their wallets yet. The carnival is full of merriment. The London Eye is making its endless revolves. And a girl in her prettiest dress is wearing her fanciful shades because the sun is shining bright.

"the future is so bright"

"the future is so bright"

Posted by Old Man At 02:39 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

New York


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Trying to navigate through the New York underground is more of a challenge than I imagined, because the mobile that drowned in a Kuta pool party has now finally collapsed and died. As a result I am lost in Queens at night. There are a lot of people out and about in Queens, none of them white except for me. A lot of drunks and just plain loons, shouting and being annoying. I go back and forth trying to find my way to the next station. A man, three heads taller and twice as broad as me halts me. His two friends gather round. “Where are you from man?”, he asks. “Never-never land”, I make up. He wants to know my name, so I tell him my name. “Nah, that is no good”, he tells me, “I will call you L. Sway, because you have swagger when you walk.” I don't really know what swagger means, I have been called it before and thought it was an insult, but I found out it is in fact not. I start to walk again but he calls me back. “Wait, take this”, he hands me a CD on which he scribbles something, “I am going to do a music video, I am going to be big.” I shrug and pocket the CD, remembering I don't have a CD player and wondering who does these days.

Instead of a hotel I rent an apartment in upper Manhattan. Overlooking Central Park on 74th. It is a typical red brick New York building. Fifth floor no elevator. Old wooden ornamented staircase railings. Basement entrance with brass and glass doors in the hallway. On the first floor lives a lady with a Polish name who plays classical piano with some skill every morning. As I step outside a man in a dark blue turtleneck sweater passes my building. In his left hand the leash that ends in a tiny, long haired dog, wearing a pink ribbon and probably listening to the name Fifi. In his other hand he holds an unopened bottle of red wine with fancy label by the neck. The man walks with a brisk pace that gives a hop to his step. Everything about the scene feels like an early career Woody Allen movie.

"Skyline"

"Skyline"

After paying for my apartment and buying a new mobile I am out of dollars. I have a daily withdrawal limit agreement with my bank for security purposes and so I am 'broke’. Wandering 5th avenue in the rain I look for something to do that costs no more than the 7 USD in coins I have in my pocket. Luckily the MoMa is free on Friday night. The website warns me for long lines but I can walk right in. Inside I gape at the people as much as the paintings. Weaves, false eyelashes, full face makeup, designer clothes. Four layer suits for the gents and shoes that have never seen anything but carpet. At first I think this is an American 'thing’. Similar to Eastern Europeans going to the theater. But visiting the Met later I can dismiss this. MoMa at Friday's is just the city's singles hot spot.

I love New York. I want to do like they do. Near the sports stadium I order a Lichtenstein from a street vendor. He is an Arab that doesn't understand my English and I have to call out my order three times. “You language no good”, he tells me, “you need speak better.” “Okay Mr Arab guy”, I tell him, while thinking to myself: ’Only in New York’.

"The Lady"

"The Lady"

In a contrary move I get a city pass that allows me free access to a bunch of attractions and also three day use of the HoHo bus. It stops in front of my apartment building because people like Tiger Woods and Bruce Willis own(ed) apartments here. There is actually a whole list of celebrities called out by the tour narrator but I forget about them almost immediately. The bus takes me everywhere from Queens to Brooklyn and there is even a boat included to take me to Ellis Island and the statue of Liberty. The pass gives me freedom and makes me do things I would otherwise probably have skipped, such as visiting the top of the Rockefeller building. But hey, it is for free.

My flight is in the early evening and in the morning I stroll around New York one more time aimlessly. Returning to the Met is possible as I have not yet seen everything, but the weather is too nice at 26C. Breakfast I take at a typical upper New York bagel shop, bagels with omelet and salmon and a whole bunch of other stuff. Delicious. The weather makes me decide to walk the High Line. I notice a young woman in an unusual outfit. Thick grey lycra hiking pants, thick white woolen knee socks on top of that and hiking boots. She wears a backpack and is clearly travelling just like me. Her t-shirt does not match the rest of her outfit. Its U-shaped neck drops down to almost her belly button and it can barely hold her gigantic rack. The chain with jeweled cross she wears around her neck dangling below her squeezed together breasts. It is impossible not to notice and heads are turning everywhere. I try not to stare but fail hopelessly and she seems to be laughing at all the people staring at her. She passes me by and I remain, sitting in the sun watching the people go by. With the peace of a man that has nowhere to go I sit there for about 90 minutes. After that I decide to go to Macy’s, look at the famous displays. A desire for coffee makes me search around Horatio and Jane for a bar first. I notice I am being followed and warily I turn around. It is lycra pants girls again. She must have stayed at the end of the Line as well for the one and a half hours. Perhaps all travelers are alike but just to be sure I take a left turn and when I am far enough in the street for her to have taken the left too, I turn around and walk back to where I came from as if I erred and retrace my steps. In passing her we lock eyes and her face is puzzled.

Somehow a pretty girl with big boobs in lycra pants in Greenwich Village is more scary than walking around Queens after midnight. I must be crazy.

Posted by Old Man At 10:58 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Cancun


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It is my last day in Cancun. Lying on the beach the same two songs keep playing through my head. I only know the refrain and the lyrics intermingle with my other thoughts. Nicolas Jaar's “let's live for today” and the cover Nouvelle Vague did of “too drunk to fuck”. I have not listened to these songs for a long time, but I played them often when I was in Portugal. With my mind on Portugal my brain must have made the link to bring them back to the foreground. They become a medley that only works inside the confinement of my own mind.

"Cancun's quiet beach"

"Cancun's quiet beach"

Cancun is not what I expected. It is not the huge party place. It is a cheap place with a few bars where Americans go to get drunk cheaply. My being here feels like an invasion. An invasion of people's work places, people’s homes. The hostel is listed as a party place but hardly lives up to the reputation. Beer pong and one hour of free beers are hardly enough to make it a party place. Good value for money though. We are given bracelets with the hotel name and address. Supposedly to identify the guests from not guests. But there are only five guests. The bracelets are there for the benefit of the police. If one gets too drunk to get back on their own, the police know where to take them. Behind the bar is one lonely picture of a topless former guest. Slightly pathetic. Imagine a badly acting Adam Sandler doing his idiot impression and going: “Like one day, this girl got sooo drunk, and then she lifted up her shirt, and then let us make pictures of her boobies. Yeah that is how wild it gets here sometimes.” If it was a hundred pictures of as many different women it would be a feature, now it is just a testament to the sad state of affairs.

This trip is almost over. There is a lot I need to arrange before my return to Portugal. Car insurance, tax returns extension, foreign pension and more. Apart from the practical, there is also a lot to think about: do I stay in Portugal or do I leave for another trip? How will the people be? Will I be bored and leave or find a hobby and stay? Because of all this I decide to seek solitude, to arrange my administration and organize my mind. To the other guests I must appear a grumpy old man, but zero fucks given on that subject. Full disclosure: the girls at the hotel are also just too ugly to be interesting.

Sitting outside reading a book, a man and a boy on bikes step off and join me on my public bench. “Do you speak English?”, the man queries. “Sometimes I do”, I reply. “Sometimes”, he scoffs. “Well you better watch out, two transvestites are coming this way.” Confused as to the inherent danger of transvestites, I jokingly and hesitantly tell him: ”Well I am a handsome guy…” “It is not about your looks, it is about the money you have in your pocket.” “Ah I see”, I tell him, but I don't really see, trying to think of ways two men in miniskirts and high heels would be threatening enough to rob me of my money. The only thing I can come up with is that the American next to me is a fervent Republican voter. Going back to my book I imagine the conversation over but no such luck. He tells me about his job as a travel agent, how it meant him coming to Mexico, getting married to a local, becoming a dad. I believe to sense a hint of disillusionment so I ask him: “Shit happens huh?” He turns his face away from me, looking at the distant empty horizon and says: “Yeah. Shit happens.” I learn about their living in America and going back to Mexico. Telling me how Cancun has the highest percentage of drag queens and how everyone here is a drunk and how the government is battling this. “Do you miss America?”, I ask, noticing the republican views and distaste for the Mexicans. “The wife wanted to go back to Mexico”, he says as if that is an answer to my question. I make note of the fact that he says “The wife” and not “My wife”. The man and his son prepare to get on their bikes again. The boy seems to be about 13 years old, but behaves like a nine year old. Running around, making zoom zoom noises as if he is an airplane. He is unruly, without any respect for his father, rather testing him, trying to get him mad. The father shows no love whatsoever. Not even enough love to yell and get mad at the boy. He just doesn't care.

“Too drunk to fuck, too drunk to fuck, rolling down the stairs too drunk to fuck.”

There is an unfinished boulevard that is closed to the public but there is an overgrown pedestrian path that gets you there. Broad roads and pathways that are a dead end on both sides. With street lighting that still needs to be hooked up. Holes in the streets with cables hanging out that mark the spot where more fixtures were to be placed. Vandalized landmarks that never came into existence. But quiet and overlooking the blue water bay. It is visited by myself and the occasional group of schoolkids. At least during the day. The emptied out wallets and tossed fake jewelry an indicator it is used by others at night.

"Untold stories"

"Untold stories"

Most hours I spend there in complete solitude. A bird on the nearest street light lets out a shriek. He flies over towards me, stands there looks at me and occasionally pecks at the ground. He hops about, but his hops are unstable. After every hop he seems to need to pause and stabilize. It is only then that I realize that he has only one leg. 'What strange omen you are?’, I wonder, ‘’Ah well, be it good or bad let it come’.

Las Perlas is a little known beach visited by a few locals only. As I lie in the shade I imagine what I am doing here, with humor noting that I could be working in in an office having debates and discussions and worrying about things going wrong.

"When I think of all the worries, people seem to find.
And how they're in a hurry, to complicate their minds.
Chasing after money or dreams that won't come true,
I'm glad that we are different, we have better things to do."

Whatever Portugal will bring me, it will give me either a reason to leave or a reason to stay. One of the two brown and white pelicans that was floating around the marina glides low over my head as I stare at the clear blue sky. It adds a much needed third verse to the medley in my head. Pink Floyd's song of solitude, sin and forgiveness.

"Overhead the albatross
Hangs motionless upon the air
And deep beneath the rolling waves
In labyrinths of coral caves
An echo of a distant time
Comes willowing across the sand
And everything is green and submarine"

"The unfinished road"

"The unfinished road"

Addendum:

On the plane to New York I am reminded of a stupid thing I have done in Cancun, where my ego got the better of me, making me behave like the idiot I am. Normally this makes me flustered and full of self loathing. But not today. Having made peace with myself months ago I wonder what has made me so mellow. I realize that ‘forgiving oneself’ is one thing, ‘accepting oneself’ is another thing altogether.

Posted by Old Man At 05:44 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Dallas


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Nothing happened in Dallas. Nothing ever happens in the big D.1

1 Except that one time JR got shot

Posted by Old Man At 09:25 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Los Angeles


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Somewhere, long ago someone settled in a remote area and decided to call it ‘the angels’. Why? What story is behind that? It fascinates me.

It is a short flight from San Francisco to LA. Just long enough for one movie. Knowing by now what is on offer, I quickly scan what is new but settle for The Rocky Picture Horror Show, having loved it since I first saw it as a teen in a night theater in The Hague. To my left a guy in his late forties struggling with a powerpoint pitch on TicToc ¹. Using 1990’s powerpoint technology to pitch this seems wrong, but what to expect when you let a middle-aged guy run the campaign, he will repeat the tricks he learned in his twenties. I dream up my own pitch: imagining a stage all in black, a short blond girl of about 22 enters from the left, toned down makeup and her hair in a tight straight ponytail, to make her look younger and more innocent than she is. She holds a big microphone with both her hands. Subliminally alerting the audience to the phallus aspect. When she says “Good evening everyone”, she bends her head slightly into the microphone while keeping her eyes fixed on the audience, as if she is about to blow that dick. One by one old crt screens coming on stacked in a huge wall behind her, each one showing a different TicToc video, while the young ladies speeches, using mostly three word sentences larded with words like ‘generation’ and ‘new’. Now that is how you do a pitch.

To my right an Indian who works in San Francisco. He keeps talking to me even though I want to see my movie. Finally I give in and we talk about life, work and relations. For some reason he seems to adore everything I say and while outwardly humble, my ego grows by the minute. He sold his company to Google two years ago, staying on as director to lead the project. He begs me to come over to India for an all expenses paid trip. Even going so far as to send an email to his secretary to buy an open ticket from anywhere in the world to Mumbai.

LA is a feast of recognition. The first thing I see exiting the metro is Hollywood boulevard and the endless rows of stars on the side way. Most names I don't even recognize and some are a surprise to me; I mean Ronald Reagan has a star for his acting prowess? Is it not supposed to be for artists famed for their achievements in art? Sunset boulevard, Santa Monica, Melrose, Rodeo drive, Beverly Hills, the Hollywood sign and Tinseltown itself, last house on Mulholland, Venice beach, the Pier… there is so much to see and most of it is only fun because of the recognizability. But I love it.

Walking down the meandering road from the Hollywood sign a yellow hood-less Ferrari passes me by. In it a guy in his early fifties and a fake blond 20 year old. Twenty minutes later I am at the foot of the hill and see them having dinner in the only restaurant on the street. It is the perfect symbiotic relationship. She dyes her hair blond for him and sucks his dick, he feeds her dinner and takes her on yacht trips.

Everything in LA is about the screen. Not just the massive windowless warehouses whose only distinctive feature the huge plastic letters are, spelling out some name ending in ‘film studios’. Closely guarded by iron fences and a single guard in a booth by the entrance. No, it is everywhere. Eighty percent of all billboards promote some movie or tv show. There are actor schools, makeup schools, music score makers, prop studios, everything the industry needs. Oh, and of course endless bars, to feed the droves of tourists and indirectly also feed the actors and actresses that do not find an acting job.

"Hooray"

"Hooray"

All the cliches about the city of angels are true. In my dorm everyone is ‘in the business’. Of course none of them have actually ever held a paying job in the business, but they all claim to be co-director, editor or writer. Trying to sell me a slice of Domino's pizza to add another dollar to their wallet. Eating popcorn and watching Netflix documentaries on early 2000’s tv shows. Nodding approvingly each time a random face on the screen makes an opinionated statement about some show or the industry.

I share my room with a Tunisian man in his late fifties, early sixties. He is in town for the screening of a pilot that he hopes will lead to a series that he can produce, a series for which he claims to have “great and unique ideas”. The screening is in one of the hundreds of little theaters spread around town. They seat 30 people and above the entrance they have these cool billboards where plastic letters are shoved into, to spell out the name of the feature. Old school grandeur.

The other guest is a man in his twenties. He is a total mess. He is so fat he has trouble getting into his top bunk. He has developed a tic where every breath he takes requires him to click his tongue against his palate. He watches videos on his laptop without headphones, so I have to follow whatever he is watching. Mostly it is instructional videos on martial arts, cartoons and channels where they discuss anime. The worst thing is that he talks to himself. Delivering comments like “Haha, yeah that is how you kick a guy”, when watching the karate kid remake, or “Focus, I can do this”, when climbing in his bed. He tries to get everyone involved in his project. A puppet movie, so they don't need to pay actors. He doesn't have a script yet, but knows it will be 8 minutes long. He will do the puppeteering because he is good at that. He will also write the script this weekend, do the story boarding and co-direct. Some lady he met at a restaurant gave him her business card. Naturally leading to his conclusion she will be interested in sponsoring him. Next week he will sell his movie for a lot of money and pay everyone. Now he only has to call his brother so he can asks their mom to ship the puppets over.

This is LA.

¹ TicToc by Bloomberg delivers bite size news items targeted at those born after 2000, mostly the current 14 year olds.

P.S.
I saw zero Hollywood stars (sad face). I did pass a row of trailers next to a studio with security guards outside. There were papers with names written in bold pen on the door that I did not recognize. First names only and between quotes. Like “Elisa”. I am sure that is code for “Emma Stone”.

Posted by Old Man At 10:56 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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