Conversations With Londoners

London, England Travel Blog

“So, second day in Lisbon, she tells you she doesn’t love you. Says she doesn’t have room for you in your life. You said it got worse every day — I don’t see how that’s possible.”

That’s Barney, my colleague here in London. He’s 22, 23. Something like that. He sits next to me in this office where I will be working for the next five weeks. 

I’d come here to London at the request of my boss, but more importantly, at the request of a romantic interest — the one I’d been chasing for the better part of a year. She’d wanted me in Europe for the summer, so we could continue our romance at a slightly closer proximity. I’d just spent an awful week with her in Lisbon, which I was currently recounting to Barney.

“Oh, it does get worse,” I say. “Third day and fourth days she’s very sick. UTI. Starts treating it with cranberry pills.”

“CRANBERRY PILLS?” Barney interrupts. “Shitting cranberry pills?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Doesn’t do anything.”

“Of course it didn’t do anything, because you need to take shitting antibiotics!” he rages. A modern man, Barney. He doesn’t suffer fools.

“Yeah,” I nod. “I know. Anyways, turns out after I leave that it’s not just a UTI — it’s a kidney infection. (Which antibiotics also would have treated.) So she’s had a kidney infection literally the entire visit.”

“Is she like a fucking hippie child?” he asks. “Kind of girl who would wear a flower crown? Why the fuck is she taking cranberry pills.”

“Ehhh… kinda,” I say. “She was wearing a flower in her hair in Lisbon,” I say, drifting off in memory. Weeks later, when I pack to leave London, I will find this bougainvillea in my luggage. I won’t know what to do with it, and will, sadly, put it back in the inner-breast pocket of my jacket. Unable to let it go.

“Hey! Hey!” Barney snaps in front of my face. “Finish your fucking story.”

“Oh, right,” I say, coming out of nostalgic memory, and back to the hard reality of the thing. “Fifth day was her birthday. That one was alright. We were supposed to go to the beach but never got there. Drank a pitcher of sangria by the famous tower, you know the one. That got her talking a little. OK day.”

“Sixth day — she’s promised me we’ll talk this day. ‘Just give me a few days,’ she said. ‘Saturday, Saturday we’ll talk.’ So, Saturday: she gets a new roommate. Her other one is out of town, so the whole time I’m there she’s been trying to sublet it, you know,”

“Jesus Christ,” says Barney.

“Yeah,” I say. “I know. I was less than happy about that. She was always trying to buy a fucking washing machine too, and shit like that? Didn’t seem very present. So anyways. Sixth day, new roommate. She gives the roommate the only set of keys.”

“Noooo,” he says.

“Yup. I told her not to, but anyways, she gives away the keys to this new person she just met. Then she makes me go pick up some more furniture. Awesome. Already told her I’m not into the whole building a house thing. But anyways, whatever, we end up getting this furniture, struggling with it on the metro, right? Then — of course — we’re locked out of the apartment. Did I mention she’s still got the kidney infection?”

“Jesus Dan,” he says, shaking his head. “You did not have much luck on this trip, did you?”

“Noooo I did not,” I say. “Anyways, so we spend that night wandering around in the cold, trying to get the keys. She’s miserable. I’m annoyed. We still haven’t talked any more about what happened on Tuesday. About us. Eventually we get the fucking keys and go home. Everyone’s angry. That’s it. That’s Saturday. No talk.”

“Next day’s Sunday. Last day. She wakes up, tries to have sex with me. I just… can’t. I’m so sad, I don’t want it, you know? Sex for me is all about the emotional connection. And she’s shut that down, completely. I go to the bathroom and just cry. 

“She wants to go to the beach, but I just want to get this fucking talk over with, you know? I force it, probably. Anyways, it goes from: she ends up inviting me to move in with her, to telling me she doesn’t have space for me in her life, to me telling her I was with another girl in New York. We run out of time, I gotta go catch my flight. And then I leave her a letter that says that I love her.”

There’s a beat.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Barney asks. “Really, what made you think ANY. OF. THAT. was a good idea?”

“Things did get away from me a little bit,” I admit.

“No fucking shit they got away from you,” Barney says. “Wayyyy far away.”

Then he adds: “Can I read the letter?”

I hesitate for a second, then say: “Sure. Why not?”

I have nothing left to lose.

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Nepal 45: Howl

Alan Ginsberg Howl

My search for breakfast again took me along the touristy Lakeside strip. I didn’t much mind though—after a month of having the “local experience” in Taiwan, I was more than happy to play the tourist for a little bit.

And the Nepali love tourists. Not in a snide, disparaging way like you might find in some other places— the Nepali genuinely love their visitors, and are happy to help them experience the culture and natural beauty of their country. This is the only touristic place I visited on this trip where I didn’t feel any sort of tension between the tourists and the locals. So if you’re going to be a clueless tourist looking for a piece of home, Nepal is as good a place as any to do it.

My search for familiarity led me to the Pokhara branch of Himalayan Java. I had spent some time at the Himalayan Java in Kathmandu.

Apparently it’s a chain, I thought to myself as I spotted the signs. Maybe not a chain, could just be a second location. After all, the Himalayan Java in Kathmandu hadn’t seemed particularly slick or reproducible. And although Nepal’s a wonderful country, there probably aren’t too many opportunities to open a western-style coffee chain. Kathmandu, Pokhara, maybe Chitwan, I mused as I crossed the road and headed to the coffee shop.

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Nepal 40: Traveling is Like…

Chess in the cafe

As we were queuing up for another game of chess, a young Spaniard came up the steps and into the cafe. He saw the Malaysian and broke out into a big smile.

“Ah good, you’re still here!” he said.

“Of course,” the Malaysian answered with a single nod. “I am here every afternoon. I have nothing else to do.”

He turned to me, and said: “You know how I describe traveling? I say: traveling… is like Sunday afternoon.” We both laughed.

I sipped my tea and thought: Sunday afternoon…

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Nepal 39: Hash

Pokhara Cafe

The Malaysian and I played two more games of chess. I eked out a thin win in the second game after he sacrificed his queen in a risky gambit that never paid off, and we played an onerous game of pawns-and-king for the third that should have gone to a stalemate, but ended with an unforced error on my part that allowed him to back me into a corner and checkmate me.

Although the Malaysian took the series 2-1, I felt I had represented myself well, especially considering I hadn’t played serious chess in a year or more.

While we were playing, a small group of spectators had gathered around us. Some of this group were patrons of the cafe, perusing menus and asking questions of the hostess, while others were clearly here just for the chess.

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