It’s Good to Try Different Things Even — Maybe Especially — When You Feel Judgemental
Ok, well I haven’t bought a Volkswagen beetle bus yet but I am going to Stonehenge for the Winter Solstice.
When I first moved to Brighton, England, I was amazed to discover an entire community of hippies — really! They call themselves that and they are: they go to silent retreats and ayahuasca ceremonies and play kirtan on the beach. They wear gold eye sparkle bought at Lush and volunteer at Bestival on the Isle of Wight and camp out at the Glastonbury music festival for all four days, unfazed by the rain and mud.
My entree to this community was my friend Hamy. She loves the story of how we met so here goes:
I was new in town, didn’t know people and I saw a flyer for something called “Laughter Yoga.” Well, I could’ve used a bit of both so I went along. I found the address but there was a small pool on the ground floor and the business was called Baby Swim.
I went up the stairs to see if there was anything else, never imagining this could be the right place, stuck my head through a door and apparently with my New York attitude and a hand on my hip, as I was told later by Hamy, asked, “Are you the friggin’ laughter people?”
I promise you, “it” is not awesome. Whatever “it” is, It’s not. Unless you are gazing at the Grand Canyon, the Aurora Borealis or Donald Trump’s hair on a windy day, it might be great, cool, excellent, very wow…
When I first moved to uk, being the cheapskate I am, I used websites where people want to offer stuff for free that they don’t need anymore. Websites like Freecyle and Freegle.
I remember the first time I saw an ad for “hardcore”. They were giving it away! And I thought, “Those quirky Brits! They’re supposedly so uptight and yet they are just letting the entire world know they’ve finished ‘reading’ their porn magazines and want TO GIVE THEM AWAY!” Then again, I thought, why should they discard two large black bags of the stuff when someone else might want it? Who am I to judge? Two bags though. But you never know what’s going on with people. Lost his wife? Got fired? Horny bastard? None of my business.
I’ve been following his writing career for a good more than a decade. He’ll make me laugh — almost pee-in-the-pants laugh — and then suddenly, I have to catch my breath because he’s pondered a truth so poignant that it’s hard to breathe.
So when I find out he’s on a book tour (his fans are so numerous and devoted that he reads in music auditoriums, not bookstores) and that one stop will be in Bexhill on Sea, an hours’ train ride, I know I’m going.
But the tickets sell out. In two days. 1500 seats to see a guy read.
Doesn’t matter. I take time off from my work-study job at Bikram in the Lanes and DECLARE I will find someone with an extra ticket to sell. I will WILL it to happen.
Wear my cutest outfit. (the guy’s as gay as a Christmas in Las Vegas but I want to dress up.) Train problems, we are diverted to Lewes. Tight on time. Shit! Oh well, whatever happens, happens. Let’s make the best of it. Make friends with a new philosophy grad from University of Brighton named Padraig Forham. Then an Indian man in a tuxedo complete with bow tie (he’s going to a “ball”!), named Abdul comes to sit with us and is forced to be friends with us. We play Twenty Questions about what’s Abdul’s job (Solicitor). By the time the train comes, jam-packs us in and starts moving, we rope in a Brit architect who regales us his adventures in Norway where he works a lot. (“Their language is a lot of sounds. Thank God they speak English.”)
And I think about how damn nice the Brits are.
We all part ways with some phone exchanges (the lawyer has a crush on the philosopher, pretty sure) and as I get out of the station of this new town, Bexhill on Sea, I start asking whoever is in ear’s length where the De La Warr Pavillion is because I’m going to see David Sedaris and I don’t have a ticket.
“I have an extra ticket!,” pipes up the most fabulous person is the world because she has an extra ticket to David Sedaris.
My eyes pop open, I ask her name, she tells me Leah and I hug her and tell her I love her! We scurry over to the venue — THERE’S NO ONE SELLING A TICKET OUTSIDE! LEAH ROCKS! — and that’s when I see Him. He’s sitting at a table, signing a book and chatting with a fan. He’s famous for staying hours and hours signing books and chatting with people. But this is BEFORE the show! It’s nearly time however, so we buy drinks (when in Rome… and when in England), get to our seats and I send an email to my buddy, Lynn in San Francisco, that I got in.
He comes out wearing shorts and says, “I’m wearing shorts.” He chats with us, reads one amazing story after another, drinks a lot of water. I think it was four stories and then diary entries. He tells us little bits in between. He’s so genuine — he has an unusual, some might say odd or even eccentric way of looking at the world but his DNA is just genuine. And damn funny.
But who cares, right? Why am I writing this? Why might anyone care to read this blog post. I don’t know. But I haven’t written in a long time because life has been rough, rough, rough and — I don’t know — because I was downhearted, depressed, lonely, have gone through moments where I was actually feeling like life wasn’t worth living. I’ve had moments of true sadness alongside moments of joy when I could see that Brighton is a fantastic place to be! A very emotional time and I haven’t written any of it down. And maybe if even one of my 22 bog followers is still reading and thinking, Shit This is Boring — I DON’T CARE. And I have been caring way too much about what other people think and somehow watching a man tell a story about how how he fed his tumour (benign) to an elderly snapping turtle in a canal in South Carolina, made me not care very much about what others think. Because life is just so utterly delightful and beautiful even in the tiniest details.
In keeping with my this year’s mantra (see previous post), “Take Care of Your (effing) Self” I signed up for a hula hoop class. Or, a-hem, for those of us “in the know”, Hoop class.
You cannot imagine how much fun it is. Or what damn exercise. I do feel a six-pack a-coming! Well,let’s not exaggerate. Maybe one can.
And it is SO NOT just about swinging that colourful circle of plastic around your middle. Oh no, my friends. There are tricks galore. None of which I can truly yet do, still working on swinging that colourful circle of plastic around my middle. However, check out Edo from Cyprus:
I met Edo at a drop-in circus tricks practice (hoop, poi, swords, tight-rope!!). I was happy just keeping my colourful circle of plastic swinging somewhere around my middle and there’s this blue-haired hippie with matching blue sweatshirt so to start a conversation I said, “So do you change the color of you hair everytime you change your top?” He gave me a shy smile and could barely look me in the eye.
He’s from Cyrpus and moved to Brighton one week before.
“I was the only person on the island who hooped.”
How did he learn?
Brighton has a very established, “hooping community.” (OMIGOD I LOVE LIVING SOMEWHERE THAT HAS ANY FLIPPING KIND OF HOOPING COMMUNITY!!!!). So I asked him if that was why he moved to Brighton:
“Well,” the blue-haired 60s Cypriot throwback responded, “that’s one of the reasons.”
Then there’s Nick. He is one of the organisers of CircusSeen and he oversees these Friday evening open practices (what do YOU do on friday night???). Check him out in the video below! I have never even seen those little do-dads that he’s playing with!! They’re called something like Figure Eight Whatchamacallits. Ok so I don’t remember the name. But when you see them. you ain’t gonna forget them!
These colorful characters with their piercings and hanging pants and dreadlocks and tie-dyes were so kind and sweet and HAPPY.
And that’s what I needed… Hippies, Hoops and Happiness.
“We haaaaaave a table, we haaaaaave a table,
We have a table, a table
We haaaave a taaa-a-a-ble!”
Here, we’ll show you:
As I’ve expressed here and here, it’s a sad day when one does not have a table. And now I sit here AT THE TABLE with my cappuccino. (Moving to England ain’t changing that, oh no, nuh-uh — got me a mokka, a foam maker and I am ready to go to Timbuktu if needs be. Don’t try to come between me and my cappuccino.)
The landlord finally borrowed a table from his brother. I think he broke down after seeing us night after night cracking our backs and stretching our necks in the middle of dinner on the living room floor. We would sit hunched over, legs splayed in a V trying to scoop up salad from a plate set in-between our knees, constantly dropping green bits from our mouths. After dinner one night Frank said he had to work hard not to laugh because I looked like the Beast from Beauty and the Beast trying to eat normally. Visual aid below! Go to 0:27.
(Ignore dude speaking in Italian at beginning. No idea what that’s about.)
But Beast I am no more! Hallelujah!
We now have a table but — of course — no placement mats. So for today’s substitute, I’ve picked the “Money” section of the Sunday Times (no, dear New Yorkers, not the New York Times). Headlines include:
“Why it may still be better to give birth in Scandanavia”
“I donated some boots to a charity sale… and bought them back for £15,000”
And complete with a photo with the consigliere whispering into the ear of Marlon Brando as The Godfather, there’s the heading:
“Our savings won’t sleep with the fishes!”
Who says the Brits are so reserved? Drama and sensation amuck at least in the Money section.
The British do some very cute things: they say “Cheers” instead of “Thanks,” they say “me” instead of “my” – “Gotta call me dad,” and they add those darling question tags at the end of all their sentences — “Nice day, isn’t it?”, “Got meself pissed last night, didn’t I?”
But the cutest of the cute is that they name their houses. I noticed when I visited my friend, Alice. Alice lives in The Garden Flat, and it’s even included on her formal address.
The Garden Flat
2 Cambridge Street
Tunbridge Wells TN3 4SQ
I mean, besides plantations (Scartlett’s Tara from Gone with the Wind), and some holiday homes in Cape Cod and the like (Seascape, Sea le Vie, Vitamin “Sea” etc) Americans don’t name their houses.
Here are some examples of British home names:
sometimes it’s food related —
sometimes a posh name —
then of course, there’s the royalty angle —
Thus, we decided to name our house, too.
We have called it Josh.
Yep, that’s what we could see from the ferry. The white cliffs of Dover. Through the raindrops. Through our exhaustion. Through our misgivings. The white cliffs of Dover.
We decided to move out of Italy last January. Trying to run a small business in Italy is … well, comical. Between the taxes and bureaucracy, — surprise surprise! — there’s a huge black market.
I remember when I first opened a regular old bank account 10 years ago in Rome when I still felt romantic about immigrating to the county of my forefathers. Eugenio, the very pleasant bank manager, gave me some documents to sign in two places. I did and then I started to put my pen away. “Non abbiamo finito,” he said. We’re not finished. I’m sure I smiled. Then he gave me another set of documents, six signatures I think. Then he gave me some more documents. Then more. More. More. At some point I looked at him and asked if there was a hidden camera somewhere and if this was a joke. He chuckled and said, “Welcome to Italy.”