27 October 2009

Introducing...MY NEXT BLOG!

I can't believe it's time to retire London Footnotes. Honestly, I feel like I just started it. But here we are: life, racing forward at full throttle.

And so we enter the next phase: The Great American Road Trip! Please join my travels on the blog specifically created for the next few months on the road: Moonpies and Cherry Slurpies. I thought the best possible name for my blog would be one composed of my diet for the next three months, and also the very things that make America grand: chocolate-covered, marshmallow-stuffed cookies, and cherry-flavored iced carbonated beverages. Please forgive me in advance for spelling slurpee wrong, but I like to think that just adds to the blog's charm. Plus, you know, now 7-Eleven can't sue me for making fun of one of the world's most awful drinks for three months straight. And by 'awful,' I mean, 'truly, truly awful.' (Moonpies, on the other hand, are untouchable.)


21 October 2009

Admiral Boom washes my clothes.

You know that part in Mary Poppins where Admiral Boom sets off his cannon to mark the hour, and everybody in the family grabs a vase or a lamp to prevent it from falling and breaking while the house shakes? That's EXACTLY what it's like when my washer here goes into its spin cycle. It just now hit (although 'went off' is probably a better choice of words), and since I didn't have the wherewithal to do my usual run-and-grab, there was a domino effect as all of the cutting boards toppled over (their bang startling me so much I think I let a little out), knocking over the basket of tea bags, which then up-ended the sugar bowl. It was awesome. Or at least, it would've been if it had happened to somebody else. As it is, I just spent a significant portion of time trying to get all the sugar off the floor before the mice discovered it and threw a party.That's right, little mouse friends. I hear you squeaking. Don't think I don't speak your language.

I've got to go hang up these clothes now. Somehow they've got to be dry for packing tomorrow. I'll have to put them in the airing cupboard and hope for the best.

Next time I see you, I will probably be on American soil and blubbering through my last London Footnotes post. Thank you so much for reading this past year.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to change my pants.

20 October 2009

North Dakota: it's not where you think it is.

The other night I had a small leaving-do with the friends I've made here over the past year, and the topic of my road trip came up. I made fun of the fact that I'm ridiculous for planning a road trip in the dead of winter, and one girl made a joke that it was going to be like one long endless Fargo. Once we explained to a shocked-looking companion that we didn't mean the pregnancy part, we meant the long endless snowy road with nothing but fence posts to pass the time and distance part, the topic resumed. Then somebody asked me, 'Hey! Where's North Dakota?'


Of course I lied about it--after all, it's not like they knew, and I couldn't let my countrymen down by proving myself to be another dumb American--and waved vaguely in the air, 'sort of top-middle. Above South Dakota.' He holds up two index fingers: 'So if this finger is Oregon, and this finger is Chicago, where would it be?' I lowered Chicago slightly (to make it look like I knew what I was doing), then waved another finger vaguely between the two: 'It'd be, like, right here. With Minnesota and Wisconsin right here.' To indicate Minnesota and Wisconsin--one state in my mental map--I waved again. This appeared to satisfy him, I sighed with relief, and the conversation resumed on a much-less demanding course.

It has since occurred to me that I'm going to start driving across this landmass roughly a week from Sunday.

I know.

So today I typed 'United States of America' into Google maps. Just to, you know, 'check it out.' I wanted to see how badly I butchered North Dakota's location (turns out I had it somewhere up in Canada) and I wanted to see if Minnesota and Wisconsin were in fact two separate states (they ARE. And BIG ones). Now I'm hooked: this map is FASCINATING me. It turns out that between Diana in Memphis and Gina in Pittsburgh, I'm going to be going through KENTUCKY. And WEST VIRGINIA. Dude. That's WILD. KENTUCKY. WEST VIRGINIA. And then also I had totally thought I lied to a friend a few weeks ago when I said that of COURSE I was going through Mobile, Alabama, because really, what road will ever lead a person through Mobile, Alabama? but then it turns out I CAN TOTALLY GO THROUGH MOBILE, ALABAMA. Between New Orleans and Memphis! Isn't that INSANE? And I can even knock off a corner of Mississippi while I'm at it! MISSISSIPPI!

This trip is getting wild. I can't even handle it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to find a way to make St. Louis fit between Ohio, Chicago, and Wisconsin...

19 October 2009

126 Restaurants in 90 days. And they say I don't have vision.

I picked up Gourmet magazine today because of the headline '126 American Restaurants Worth the Money.' I figure since I'll be driving across much of America, I may actually have the opportunity to hit several of these...at least if my planning goes well. Otherwise, I'm going to end up back in SF with chalupa-hips. (Although, let's be honest, I probably will, anyway.) I'm considering the idea of photographing myself daily during my journey, with the eventual creation of a flip-book in which you can actually see me physically growing. It will be pretty sexy. Then I'll sell it for mad bank and it will be a huge best-seller and then Oprah will have me on her show and be like, 'So tell us, Sharona, how did you manage to accomplish such a daring physical feat?' And I'll say, 'Well, Oprah, it took three months on the road, and a lot of fast food, and I kept having to move my tripod back a few inches further each day to fit me into the frame, but it was a small price to pay for all this fame and fortune. Would you mind if I have a little snack?'

I just got done watching these sweet video clips. I wonder if Volkswagen can make packing fun? I think I'll write them a strongly-worded letter. I hope they get back to me before Thursday, since I've got a plane to catch.

16 October 2009

Stratford-upon-Shakespeare and a host of non-sequiturs

* standing on a podium * 'It's been a week since my last blog post...' * smattering of applause *

Brussel sprouts are the big Christmas thing here. I'm just now realizing this, despite having spent Christmas here last year. I was looking through seasonal cards at Borders last week, and half of them had brussel sprouts on them. In the shape of Christmas trees, snowmen, reindeer. I also learned that brussel sprouts taste better after they've been bitten by frost, which is why they're harvested so late in the year. No doubt another reason they're served at Christmas. All of them. At once.

Last week in Edinburgh I got a book by Alisdair Gray called Ten Tales Tall & True. A rhyme adorns the fifth page: 'This book contains more tales then ten/so the title is a tall tale too./I would spoil my book by shortening it,/spoil the title if I made it true.'

This rhyme is the reason I bought the book.

I'm in Stratford-upon-Avon this weekend for a wedding. Everyone in London exclaimed when I told them I'd be here, 'Oh, Stratford, how beayoooootiful!' 'What a precious, quaint little town!' 'Did you know that's where Shakespeare is from?' 'There's a lovely river running right through it!' Interestingly enough, none of these reporters had actually ever been here. This makes me love Stratford for no other reason than its fine marketing job.

So far it seems neither little (by, say, Upton or Peebleshire standards) nor quaint, and I've seen more carparks than theaters, but I also haven't gone properly into the town center yet, so my opinions (currently) aren't worth a grain of proverbial salt. I hope to explore it more thoroughly Sunday morning, when all wedding festivities have calmed and the town isn't yet awake. I'm sure I've missed the precious bits in my fly-by drive. * determined to find precious bits if it kills me *

Right now I am in the lobby of this huge, gorgeous hotel-spa-golf-course-resort-thing less than five minutes outside of Stratford, where the wedding reception is to take place tomorrow night and consequently all wedding guests have congregated. The gardens are beautiful, really something, straight out of Pride and Prejudice, labrynths and roses and cobbled paths and ponds and fall colors and a bite in the sunny air, and I feel that if I were to stroll about the grounds, it would only be a matter of time before Mr. Darcy materialized. I can finally understand, looking out over the jointly manicured-yet-rugged landscape, why grounds-strolling used to be an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. 'Would you like to take a turn about the garden?' 'Why, yes, I would. The pond is looking positively lively this fine fall morn.'

It's 12:34 at this exact moment in time. I don't know why that excites me since I'm not ten anymore, but there it is. Excitement.

Speaking of excitement: a porter carried my bags to my room for me this morning. I think this is the first time that has ever happened to me. I felt like a princess swishing through the lounges as he wheeled his trolley subserviently behind me. I imagined people murmuring in our wake as we swept through. I also felt alarmingly Californian--unusual since I'm not from there, originally-speaking--as it struck me too late that everybody else--given their stares--probably carried their own bags, and I looked very tall against the porter's diminutive stature, and also self-entitled. But he offered, and I'm only human. (And by 'human,' I mean, 'lazy.') I also no doubt had 'American overtipper' stamped all over my regal forehead. However, as a result of all these attentions, and the manor-like setting, I do feel like a princess--or at the very least, an Elizabeth Bennett--and this is my court, and soon I will be taking a turn about the garden to improve my constitution. After which I shall take a turn about the spa to check out the facilities that I won't be using, then returning here to a tall armchair in a window overlooking my sunset grounds as a waiter-with-a-white-towel-on-his-arm proffers me a list of scotches to ease me into my evening. (That I won't accept, of course, Mother.)

Now if you'll excuse me, I have centuries to time-travel...and I think the portal is in that garden. Maybe Stratford-upon-Avon is magical, after all...

10 October 2009

Sky blue, sky blue, sky blue, sky blue, sky blue.

I love comments. I do. My self-esteem is directly proportional to how many blog comments I get. I can refresh my blog for hours just looking for * one more. * On days that I've written a post that I'm really pleased with, I haunt my blog for feedback (usually nil) and then on days that I've flipped one out that shames me with its brevity/witlessness/fatigue, I get a handful of remarks. But regardless of where it occurs, I love that handful. I NEED that handful. It's what sustains me, makes me post another day, makes me shout (okay, murmur) into the void.

Then today I read this by Okie (also linked above), and while I know that posting nothing but a link means I won't get any feedback myself, that's absolutely okay. Because this is too nice not to be shared.

07 October 2009

Scotland and Sherwood Forest, in no particular order

I landed in Glasgow on Monday afternoon, for a relaxing week in Scotland. So far my days have been spent reading, sipping from the bottomless cup of tea, and eating tiny little ham and coleslaw sandwiches. I can't get over how good they are, or how many I can pack away. When you're only eating tiny squares, you somehow manage to convince yourself you haven't just had the equivalent of three full sandwiches (or more likely six to ten, if we're being completely honest).

Tomorrow leads me to the far-off land of Edinburgh--or rather, to a tiny village just beyond. I'm looking forward to it. I'm visiting a woman who is so incredibly talented in the kitchen she makes me want to retire my apron and subsist entirely on ready meals the rest of my life, because WHY when there's someone like that in the world? It's like when you think, 'Hey, my photography's pretty good,' and then you go to Flickr and think, 'I may as well shatter my lenses now.'

Ah, well. So is life.

Whatever that means.

More as events warrant. In the meantime, some photos from Nottingham and Sherwood Forest last Sunday:

The above and below pictures are (nearly) identical, except that the one below I zoomed out to get more trees and to the top I've applied a focused filter. Can you please tell me which you prefer? I've looked at them both so many times I feel blind. I can no longer see the forest for the trees (so to speak).

05 October 2009

A day in London, in pictures

I'm having trouble figuring out what to post. Not because I have nothing to share, but because I've been a bit camera-happy recently and now I've got too much. Somehow my camera has become my journal and I photo everything: walks, places I eat, books I'm reading, sunny parks and foamy cappucinos. It hardly matters how important my activity--snap-snap-snap--there it goes. I don't usually do anything with these photos--I don't fix them, crop them, sometimes even look at them--but they're there. Sometimes I may look back--maybe while looking for something else entirely--and see one or two and think, 'ohmyGOODNESS, I remember that deli!' and the moment, the day, even what I was thinking about or reading comes rushing back instantly. It's a crazy rush, a mad trigger. But usually there they sit, in my archives, untouched by time or attention.

I remember I saw a movie once ages ago where the main guy kept taking photos of these divey motel rooms and his girlfriend said something like, 'Why do you take pictures of the hotel room and not the Eiffel Tower?' to which he replied, 'I want to photograph the things that I'll forget.' And while the rest of the movie is a complete blank--I may have changed the channel five minutes later--that part stuck with me. And it has, in part, guided my own picture-taking philosophy: there's nothing too big or too small to capture--what matters is that you don't forget. It doesn't have to be a good photo, well-framed and balanced and perfectly lit. Just take it, capture it, immortalize it.

So...here's last Friday in pictures. I don't feel like doing explanatory captions today, but if you have a question about anything, do feel free to ask. In short, my day consisted of Brick Lane, Rochelle Canteen, some classic London shops, a gallery, and Late at Tate Britain, where a couple deejays performed some classical works in a very nonclassical style. It was a good day.

01 October 2009

I am SO almost done.

As you may or may not know, I have had a HECK of a time planning my road trip itinerary. (And by 'a heck of a time,' I mean, 'I haven't even looked at a map yet, but I'm pretty sure New Orleans is near Memphis and that both of those are near Austin, so right away it's all looking pretty good.') But part of the reason I haven't really 'touched' the itinerary yet is because I've commissioned Map Wizard Dusty to help me, and he lives in OKC. So of course I have to wait to tackle this project until we can get together. Plus I like to plan things on the fly. It lends an element of excitement, nausea, and panic that really gets me going. Some people do drugs: I procrastinate.

The downside to waiting for The Dusty Hour (Dusty, I apologize in advance that 'The Dusty Hour' now means 'The Very Last Possible Second') to plan is that you--yes, you, and don't hide behind your curtains, I know you're there--will get approximately... * 45 seconds * notice before I knock on your door demanding a free meal and a couch to crash on. But I'll also come armed with a six-pack (of Diet Coke, Mom), so we'll still be friends.

But just in case Dusty figures out who the AntiChrist is in the next 48 hours and gets himself martyred (sidebar: does one 'get' martyred? Is that just my inner okie speaking again? Professor Gray, please to clarify), I've got a back-up plan!: The Pioneer Woman's book tour. That's right. SHE PUT IT ONLINE JUST SO I COULD FOLLOW HER. It's SO obvious. I mean, LOOK at it: she planned her tour for the EXACT same dates as my road trip, and starting it from the same place I'm starting mine. Coincidence? Methinks not. I'll be verifying her need for me when I show up at the Tulsa signing with my handmade 'I heart Ree' tee shirt and start licking her new cookbook. I think I'll buy eighty copies JUST BECAUSE I CAN. Plus in the length of time it will take her to sign all of them, I'll be able to hide away in her luggage.

p.s. Once, when Dusty and I were super-popular thirteen-year-olds, we made a three-dimensional map of Middle Earth for an English project. It was fantastic. We made trees out of toothpicks and dyed-green cotton balls, and tin foil rivers, and crusty clay Misty Mountains, all to scale. I know. Our awesomeness blows my mind, too. I hope that we approach my road trip map in a similar fashion, as I like to 'conceptualize' journeys before I take them. And then when I'm on the road, I'll be able to instruct my navigating passengers to look in the backseat to find out how close we are to our destinations: 'Do you see that brown foil strip? That's the Mississippi. I think we just crossed it. Now look for New Orleans. No, no, it's marked by a string of beads. Do you see it? How close are we? NO, I don't need to turn on my GPS. I've got this MAP.'