What’s Up? (England Day Two)

Saints.
As I come to consciousness Saturday morning, I can hear two distinct types of shouting. I could hear children playing Football in the courtyard right outside of my window. I couldn’t possibly be angry if they woke me up with shouts of fun, it was so cute. The second type of shouting was less immediate and loud, it was more like a wind that was sweeping through the area. It was the sound of screams and songs of joy coming from St.Mary’s Stadium. I could tell Southampton was winning, but when I checked Sky News it turned out to be more than just an ordinary victory. The Saints had shut down Aston Villa 6 to 1 and just claimed the new record for fastest Hat Trick in Premier League history.

Oxford Street.
My friend had to work this Saturday, so I had Southampton to myself. One of the things I have to mention early on here is just how interesting every little detail of the city was to me, details that are probably mundane to the city’s citizens. I stopped to look at this punk-rock venue that was located underneath a brick bridge–it looked like something out of a fantasy game like Skyrim. A tavern/musical venue built under–no, inside the bridge. I found Oxford Street incredibly welcoming and pleasant. A cobblestone sidewalk, historical buildings, bars and restaurants everywhere, and it was so close to my temporary home. I only ate in one Oxford Street establishment, but the street is a fond memory, a place I saw flooded with the peppermint-striped kits of Southampton Saints fans drinking to an amazing victory.

A Drunk City.
Perhaps because of that amazing victory, I got to see Southampton particularly drunk that Saturday night. The drunkest I got was probably at lunch, drinking Rosé and eating pizza–and it seemed like the average citizen out on the sidewalk was about twice as drunk as that. I’ll go ahead and say there were two standout characters, though everyone was impressive in their own ways. So the first amazing person we run into is super drunk, and super gay. I think he maybe came from the gay bar on Oxford Street, but who can say? All I know for sure is that he liked to sing and dance, and accuse people of hating him.

“You hate me! Oh I’m sorry. You think I’m weird. I’m just lost.”

Well anyway, this guy danced his way to a bar called Isis and in hilarious but classy fashion, the bouncer gave him a cigarette and a light, but would not let the drunk man in. What kind of conversation they had, I don’t know, but it was great fun to watch.

In the middle of this drunken tale, my friend and I hit up a place called The Orange Rooms, which is filled with good throwback music, sexually aggressive couples doing lots of spanking, an AT-AT in a fishtank, televisions playing He-Man, and urinals with video games in them that you play with your pee.

On the walk home, wouldn’t you know it, we run into more drunk characters. This time it’s a man called Parkour Jacob. See, at first we don’t see Jacob. We see his friends staring at three stories of scaffolding shouting “Get down from there! Jacob! Stop!” Well, Jacob listened to reason and got down from the scaffolding, only to tell his friends that “I know a shortcut home.”

Those were Jacob’s words.
“I know a shortcut.”
And then Jacob went over a nine-foot stone walk, and walked along it until I couldn’t see him anymore.
“Somebody’s played a little too much Assassin’s Creed” was the best quip I could come up with.

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What’s Up? (England Day One)

The Flight
To describe what it was like to be in England, and to finally meet a lifelong friend, I have to start at the start. I had never flown Virgin airlines before, and I heard a great many things about their services–so when I took my window seat and saw that I had free movies to choose from, a blanket, pillow, sleepmask, earplugs, and even a toothbrush and toothpaste, I thought “this is going to be an awesome flight.” I imagined myself taking off from New York around 8PM, immediately falling asleep, and waking up in London at 8AM. This was not the case. I did not sleep for a minute of my eight-hour flight. Still, I thought the flight was alright; I enjoyed complimentary cheap red wine, dinner, breakfast, and I listened to a lot of George R.R. Martin on audiobook.

The Bus
When I landed in London, I was exhausted, but too excited to slow down. I made my way to the central bus station, grabbed a ticket to Southampton, waited all of thirty minutes, boarded my bus, and got underway. (I noted that the air outside of London Heathrow smelled clean, felt cold, like ionized air). I looked out of the bus window, looking for some iconic London landmark. Would I see Big Ben? The London Eye? I saw nothing. (I think this must be what it feels like to land in America for your first time, stepping outside at LaGuardia Airport, and feasting your eyes on Queens). But I wasn’t here for London, London was just a means to an ends, I was here for my friend.

Still, feeling antsy, I took notes to pass the hours. I noted every roundabout, the types of cars we passed, the traffic signs, (how accurate Euro Truck Simulator surprisingly is), the beautiful yellow rapeseed fields, the farm animals. Then the bus drove through our first city, Winchester. I noted the “canal-river” which turned out to be a Roman Viaduct, the many bars and restaurants, the historical brick aesthetic. (I don’t think I imagined I would be here four days later, eating and drinking with one of my best friends).

I feared falling asleep on the bus. It was far more comfortable than the airplane. I put on another chapter of A Song of Ice and Fire on Audible and tried to focus on the landscape. “Stay awake.”

The Arrival
When the bus pulled through Southampton, it was funny. I had seen some of these streets before, on Google Maps, back when I was thinking about the trip. I saw the West Quay, I knew what it was. I kept looking at the sidewalks. Was she somewhere around here? Where’s the bus station? Where? Where?!

Seeing her in the bus station was crazy. Just that type of moment where you don’t care how dorky you look to all these strangers, you’re just so happy you’ll let yourself get a little out there. Scream, hug, laugh, just say “Oh my God” over and over again. And, keep in mind, at this point I had been awake for over 24 hours, so the lunacy of sleep deprivation was stacking on top of the lunacy of happiness.

The notes slowed down here, because well, I was just experiencing things. I was wheeling my small luggage through a new town with an old friend. I needed desperately to sleep. So I slept in what would be my modest little bedroom for nine days. I slept a small, good little sleep, then had some breakfast sandwiches and drinks at the Maritimo Lounge, and more drinks back at my friend’s place. My long day ended like that. Familiar vibes of watching YouTube videos over some cider and beer, and a longer, much more needed sleep.