Saturday, February 28, 2009


Last Saturday I completed the pilgrimage. I took a Southwest train from London Waterloo to Twickenham and got off the train at Twickenham along with countless others and walked, one of hundreds along what was clearly a familiar path: sidewalk tiles tilted sideways, scuffed and worn smooth by step after step after step… Little steps by little sneakered feet and big steps by big loafered feet and rocking lopsided steps by old men with canes and maybe one good foot and one bad foot and wobbly tottering steps of toddlers taking this pilgrimage for the first time, same as me, wobbling and tottering on their wobbly tottering feet.

Then, seated, sealed in the shade-bound south side among the frenzied fans, it starts. A grumbling, rasping roar; the first tremors in the ground before an earthquake; the wave forming irresistibly somewhere offshore, a slow swell still catching beachgoers by surprise despite the cycle being as old as time. This is a special music, the three-beat thunder, thumping, uncontrolled, contagious—HAR-LE-QUINS!—my right foot makes its shy humble offering: tap. tap. tap. It isn’t a teaming thrilling ecstatic scream but it meshes well with the choir. It isn’t the frantic flapping of flags, chequered fuchsia, grey-periwinkle, green, brown, black taupe—filling “The Stoop” with color, mysteriously missing Gloucester red and white, but it is mine.

I feel closer to home than I have in a while.

I steadily become more enthusiastic as I learn.

I leave, the proud owner of knee-high, stripped socks: fuchsia, grey-periwinkle, green, brown, black taupe.

Go Harlequins.

(Happy six months, Brendan. I love you.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Since Spain

A strange, extraordinary, astonishing, miraculous thing has happened. I have been reunited with Will since Spain. How in the last week have I recovered what was lost, that striking vital enticing amorphous hopeful motivation? Have I? Or is it the ephemeral honeymoon effect of learning to love my London?

Where in Madrid, in those tangled, sunny streets so reminiscent of my normal, ordered chaos, did I find him? One encouraging glance from him and my batteries recharge. Disbelief disappears as thirst is assuaged in a luscious flood by the Living Water, not appeased as with a black umbrella. My frustration with my peers has been overcome by this Will, has been replaced by this Will’s will to simply, steadily keep racing them all despite my former insistence that the results won’t matter, that I am a washed-up has-been. I’ve come to a realization: I think I was wrong.

I think I was wrong. A few days in Madrid and a few fewer nights and I discovered the treasure is indeed hidden where X marks: the red and white X on blue—my treasure of comfort, always at home and nowhere else. So London has become home, or at least a home, and it was a relief to return. London has become a familiarity rote, not comforting, but a familiarity nevertheless.

I think I was wrong. I had finally, blessedly, become at ease with the idea that pressing and pushing in classes wasn’t worth squandering happiness and relationships. I convinced myself that what I did didn’t matter because God would take care of me in the end. I think I was wrong. Not in that God would not take care of me, but that that meant I didn’t have to try. Such is Paul’s argument in Romans: just because you are saved by grace and faith does not mean you forsake the Law. Similarly, just because God will take care of me doesn’t mean I should forsake my gifts. Doing so brings Him no glory.

Since Spain, Will has revealed to me motivation. Since two two-hour flights and the sun’s shine life as its better half is back on track. I’m with a sense of urgency to clutch and grasp and grapple with that momentum before it rolls off without me. I stand on the edge of an unknown, waiting, but not asleep—waiting, anticipating, as a runner does in the blocks. I’m leaning forward straining fighting gravity I’m tense my fingers stab the hard, biting white lines on red rubber I must get every advantage possible before the gun CRACKs!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sirens and Snow(s)

London, you marvelous mix of old and modern, you patchwork of the centuries, bits built and rebuilt, layers upon layers—an onion, smelly-yet-sweet, or baklava, sweet-but-always-served-cold?

London, you hard cold rain, flicking your people’s faces with floods from the streets and flecks from the sky, you impersonal, callous cold.

London, you labyrinth of storied streets, asphalt over cobblestone, great homes and new squares replacing the old Roman roads, straight and sensible covered by a confusing chaos.

London, you loud, rude cacophony, you and your outrageous din, your lullaby of sirens.

Sirens go off in my head.

London, you heartbreaker, open to the world, closed to me.

London, you trail of strange landmarks steadily turning familiar, but familiarity rote, uncomforting.

London, you hide your passion, taunting, aloof—bidding me to come and seek and refusing to mention that it, whatever IT is, isn’t visible, isn't tangible, but is a feeling, an impression…

London, you sticky unsullied snow, deliciously gorgeous thick frosting, icing without the cake.

New York is cake without the icing.

Cali is cheesecake. Get it?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fitting In

Note to self—scratch that.

Note to anyone who has never had beer: I would advise one to refrain! No matter how alluring the idea of drinking English ale in an English pub is, no matter how one’s mouth drips at that rich, tempting amber, glistening glass. Sometimes it isn’t worth fitting in.

How deliciously do those drops swim in sequence—perhaps, by the color, as sweet as spiced wine at Christmastime; by the frothy foam, caramel cream, a delightful dessert, a topping atop an apple pie in all its glory. All, misleading as a siren’s song; all, an angry attempt to part stingy soul from pound sterling; all, deathly, ghastly, toxic toxins poured down by willing hand. The devil is in it.

Slowly, so slowly, the beautifully, fearfully, wonderfully wrought amber morphs to that petrified piece containing the corpse of some poor dead insect specimen who once in sap begins its forever-sleep. That I was that insect! To spare me from this foreign place full of foreigners to the place, nearly alone but for this unyielding, yeasty, ferocious opponent opposite me. It’s a duel—I have no second.

No longer willing. I am Dumbledore, partaking of the putrid poison in the dark of the lake in the cave by the sea; what an accursed eucharist this is. I have not the will for this. Infinitely more appealing are shame and waste. Who would subject themselves to enough of this arsenic to acquire the taste for it?

I’m frustrated as I confirm with each bitter sip the little difficulties in fitting in… Not one to mingle needlessly, not one to drink casually. A week has passed and the cliques have already formed, too late to break into. It’s the first day of school all over again, and as always, by the end of which I feel very much alone.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Old Cowtown

Went running. Not unusual in and of itself, unless one counts the fact that I wasn’t feeling it, what with the stress of not packing and all. But that isn’t the point of this post.

While running, faulty streetlights flickering unreliably above me, I watched the moon, level with the streetlights, but quadruple the size, as it was low enough yet to be level with the streetlights. An eerie, butter-from-cows-not-vegetables yellow that cast enough light to negate the streetlights, which weren’t much help anyway, being as unreliable as they were.

It hits me then, Old Chino, Cowtown, carefully carried on the warm, pungent breeze, enveloping me like a hug from a longtime friend. Breeze coming from the east, you see, from the edges of the city where the dairy farms have been vanquished out to, a dragon.

It reminds me of my last last days in Chino, sitting atop a horse atop a hill, overlooking the heart of the valley, looking as it would if I were looking from a plane passing over head. Black, with only the patterns of streetlights (and houselights and car lights) to distinguish anything. I’d never seen home like that, not in my fifteen years here. I could pick out areas by the lights. Parks. Schools. Some things have changed. Most of the cows are gone. The city’s rep hasn’t, though, as seen from the outside. People from the outside hear about the three prisons and run…

Ran past a dairy farm the other day and didn’t notice. True SoCali here, not to notice a smell that would up the breakfast of weak stomachs—that of a few hundred brown-covered black-and-white cows on a bleak, muddy smudge going about their business of making milk and more cows. It made me happy, though, unexpectedly reuniting with one facet of my home. Old cowtown will always be my home.

My suitcase now contains a towel. Pathetic, one may say. What one doesn’t realize is how much progress this actually is. A few less battered brown boxes in the room.

I leave for London in two days.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Flight and Fight

Flight and fight. In part, a corny play on words; part, characteristically indecisive; part… a necessary rearrangement of my title to ensure an available URL. (I confess).

In light of Part B, it isn’t strange that the following thought is chief in my mind lately: at what point did I feel that this was a good idea? This temporary desertion of my motherland for the Mother Country. This foreboding, fantastic flight into the unknown in a miracle of science.

I sit in the center of my room, the same that I’ve slept in for fifteen years. I sit in the center of my room, (the same that I’ve slept in for fifteen years), surrounded by a sea (not exactly the Atlantic) of battered brown boxes—the aftermath of leaving New York in A Fine Frenzy, as it were. More remains in those boxes than what has left: in whole, a collection of things I had at some point deemed impossible to live without.

The task: to sort through these ‘essentials’ into all of my abbreviated comfort, 23 kg. It seems like nothing—why bring anything? The task is too daunting to start—my one, lone suitcase is empty. The anxiety is crushing, the air is thick, the pressure unbearable. The weight of Atlantic is, in its awesome, infinite blueness, surrounding and suffocating me mercilessly. Grace with a shot of mercy... Not here. Can I, will I, fight?

I leave for London in five days.