Sunday, February 20


What do you call blogging from a pub? Whatever it's called, that's what I'm doing. With a fat pint of Guinness. (I think it's a rare case of a bigger UK than US serving.) Smoking guys in front watch the post-game wrap up of a football match, Chelsea versus someone else. Man U?

Supposedly this place, The Elm Tree, is a Cambridge hotspot for Jazz. You wouldn't guess from the decor: 19th century-style prints, wallpaper with striped patterns like you'd see in filigree down the spines of some faux-leather bound "Great Books" series, an out-of-place specimen of a giant Peruvian grasshopper mounted spread eagle.

The jazz starts at 8:30 but I don't think I'll stick around for two more hours to listen. It's unusually cold today, with sparse snow flakes falling while I waited for the bus. By the time I came out of the theatre after watching "A Very Long Engagement" the sky had cleared, mostly blue with scattered high culumus clouds, but the cold still holding tight.

The movie was one of those rare transformative experiences that stuck with me physically after the credits rolled. (Like the time I felt like a kung fu master after watching a Jackie Chan movie and play attacked my friend in the theatre lobby, though that had as much to do with the movie as the too much free Guinness I'd drank at a dot com party beforehand.) Putting on my cap—which, with its short bill and squared off top, reminded me of a soldier's—I felt like I was getting ready for a charge out of a WWI trench. Walking down three flights of stairs to the street, I marvelled at being able to bend my leg at the knee, unlike the polio-stricken main character. And then on the street, before I'd walked a block, a guy in a bike skidded, seemingly on purpose, like the postman in the movie does repeatedly, as if this guy was sharing an inside joke with us moviegoers.

Going to the movie was the first non-shopping things I've spent money on here, the first real event of any type I've attended. So far, in my first five days in Cambridge, I've spent a lot of time walking around the city, like dogs that upon coming into a house pace around, inspecting, before they'll retire with a sigh. Not that I'm ready to retire. No sighs yet. But I hadn't felt like going to any events yet, not until I've checked things out, got an idea of what's around. But I'm taking notes. I missed by a couple days the band Low, who I might've gone to see. I'm keeping my eyes peeled for more like this, and maybe I can meet some indie chick there.

I'm getting more used to people driving on the left side of the street. It's feels like an affront to my ego that it's taken so long to acclimatize to this, as I think I'm a quick learner. But I know that this is not intellectual, but a matter of deeply embedded physical memory. Still, I hoped intellect could overcome this memory, but it seems not so. Only time brings the change. I did figure out that one reason I was almost running into people on the crowded downtown sideways is because people here also walk on the left side. (Sounds like a Lou Reed demo, before he hit on the right wording, dunnit?)

By a strange coincidence, the first novel I started here, Hotel World, is by a local author, Ali Smith. I didn't know this til I cracked the book and read the author's bio blurb. I picked the book because Jonathan Safran Foer and Jim Crace offered glowing quotes for her covers. I'll give you the intro to the novel so you can see for yourself how amazing it is. It hooked me from the start:
hooooooo what a fall what a soar what a plummet what a dash into dark into light waht a plunge what a glide thud crash what a drop what a rush wath a swoop waht a fright what a mad hushed skirl what a smash mush mash-up broke and gashed what a heart in my mouth what an end.
What a life.
What a time.
What I felt. Then. Gone.
Here's the story; it starts at the end. It was the height of the summer when I fell; the leaves were on the trees....
And the book's printed with unjustified pages, which gives it a distinct look and a special place in my brain.


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