Tuesday, August 03, 2004

July 10 (Saturday): This could be the best day of my life. It begins early when I wake up at 6.30 to discover Before Sunrise has been playing on loop on my DVD player all through the night. I leave it to run one more time and take a little of it in (prepping for date small talk/chit chat). It's a real downer how this film has little effect on me these days.

I put a huge effort into today and I aim to catch the ten o'clock train, today there really is little room allowed for any error. I bath fast but thoroughly but in that special when out to impress. I leave the flat looking and feeling good. My shirt is nice and so am I. I get to the train station well in time only to sit on platform whatever to see a goods train sit there for ten minutes with no intention to budge. Eventually it does move and I board my train, internally panicking to death.

The day started beautifully but by the time I reach London the clouds have taken over and rain looks set to fall at any time. I have a nonchalant swagger today brought on by fear, flight or fight. I walk around whistling to myself, that song from Kill Bill Vol 1 (Torn Curtain by Bernard Hermann).

Needless to say the trains/tubes are screwed and to get to Southwark is a mission upon itself. Still, I'm a trooper and I get there in good time. Southwark is a strange part of London, this is real London and I am lost. I am no longer in the city (strictly). Without an idea in which direction to travel (a compass would actually be a real help today weirdly sadly) I follow people who look like arty types and look for buildings with architectural value.

Miraculously I find the building, not too difficult really, it is just an old power station like Battersea Power Station built by the same person, my problem now is that I cannot find the entrance and it is finally beginning to give way and start to rain. After attempting the back entrance (ho ho), I finally stagger in and the place is enormous, mind-blowing. I see the queue for tickets and it was such a good job that I pre-ordered, the ticket collection queue alone looks like a baby version of an Alton Towers queue. Timing is actually working out perfectly; Phoebe's heads up for 12.30 idea was a winner.

Just as I collect our tickets my phone rings and it is Phoebe Luk. I see her in the distance and walk over; she looks fantastic, as gorgeous as I remember. Initial steps feel really awkward, is this the point she finally remembers who I actually was and balks? This is most frightening feeling in the world, stepping on egg shells trying desperately to play all the right moves and impress the apple of your eye whilst also trying to be "yourself." I tip my hat to anyone who can really pull off this dating/relationship rubbish, I can't and my life depends on it. Enough negativity already!

We stagger aimlessly, winding up in the souvenir shop first, what's that about? Conversation is horrible, where do I start? Suddenly a million things I want to say to her have been reduced one syllable grunts, I am out my depth. Fortunately the sphincter finally loosens when I see some books (graphic novels) I recognise. I try to explain to her what American Splendor is and why a comic strip about a cranky old man having adventures and complaining about them is so cool. I fail to sell. I begin regurgitating every single thing I know about art (back of a post-it note stuff) and the whole scene, to me, is exactly like the one in Annie Hall where they are having a high brow conversation but there are subtitles revealing their real thoughts. Phoebe is the real artist out of us two though and she knows her onions really and shows me a book of work of her favourite artist Kandinski. I don't get it but I pretend to, if Phoebe likes it, I like it. What a suck up. At this point I haven't even been able to give her her birthday card and when I do she is really impressed that I remembered her birthday (July 13) and appears genuinely chuffed, I score points big time! She asks if she can/should open it there and then but like a div I tell her it is bad luck (when on earth did that rule come into play?).

FINALLY, we escape the souvenir shop, that was a bad idea. We head upstairs to the gallery where the Edward Hopper exhibition is. She tells me how she was up to two last night and she keeps rubbing her eyes, it looks like this is going to be hard work. I ask her if she was out clubbing but actually she was playing an old Chinese game with her family until that hour. Mind-blowing, her family must really get on as opposed to being the modern day "normal" family like The Simpsons.

The Edward Hopper exhibition is fantastic and we genuinely have a great time. Thank the heavens for external stimulation. We stand close viewing the paintings and pictures and discuss them like real civilised human beings do. This is the best, these paintings represent something I feel, Hopper obviously sees the beauty in isolation and his vision is not a million miles from mine except he can express is in a way I never ever will able to. I say his vision of isolation but at the same time the paintings may be night scenes, they're dim but never dull, he still sees vivid colour within as if it is a flicker of optimism for his life. Of course I never sound so confident or knowledgeable verbally but discussion with Phoebe is the greatest, it's fun, natural and interesting. We catch up and add, she is unlike anyone I have met before and I know that is a cliche but she actually appears to do stuff, have beliefs and be the most adjusted person my age (roughly) I have ever met. I am awed by her composure and calmness, she is the coolest cucumber. She tells me about this great book she has just finished reading and about a "dorr" in the story. She means a "doll" and I am worshipping her accent. We look out the window of the Tate Modern and look at the city of London together. Outside the view is St Paul's and the famous Thames crossing/bridge which "moves" under the pressure of the river. We agree that "we should so go across the bridge" but unfortunately the rain is pummelling the earth. It takes an hour to get through the entirety of the Hopper exhibition. Phoebe seems to really connect with it and if she hasn't, she really is putting on a good show. We reach his masterpiece "Nighthawks" and it is breathtaking and huge. Interestingly opposite there are sketches of objects in the painting and an indicator as to how it was constructed. It takes an hour to look at the all paintings and take them in.

Afterwards we feel shattered and she asks if I want to go eat or look at the other galleries. I want to see the galleries. This is the point at which things begin to go over my head. The remainder of the Tate Modern is hard work. We go to the Still Life/Object/Real Life gallery and the Landscape/Matter/Environment gallery and this is where the real modern stuff is at. The Picassos pop out at me but little else leaves an impression (I thought they were supposed to be impressionist!). I begin to clock watch as suddenly the day begins to lull. Whilst viewing paintings, Phoebe and I drift and I realise I am acting just like my dad on a shopping trip with mum. The Dali paintings are fantastic and the Pollock is insane but the whole experience begins to become something very personal and no longer shared. I make attempts at conversation with Phoebe but the subject matter is now way way over my head and, to be sadly honest, not all that interesting to me (I guess I need things to be coherent to the death). I see a Pollock and it is great but also very random. We happen across some Warhol pop art but I've seen it a thousand times on posters on walls sadly. Phoebe is overjoyed when she finally finds a Kandinski. I wish I were more impressed, I genuinely tried to be. Maybe viewing his pictures further may open something into her mindset, which to me remains a mystery. After an hour plus we finally reach the end of the galleries and I feel exhausted and so does she. We look on the Tate computer database for a while searching for our favourites (her: Kandinski, me: Chapman Brothers, which pretty much sums us two up) and then head for some tea.

We leave the Tate and it is beginning to rain semi heavily. I have just a short sleeved shirt on but she is prepared for the elements. She has a Burberry umbrella and I make yokes about her being a football hooligan which sail thoroughly over her head. We squeeze underneath the little umbrella but it is really awkward and I am acting very self conscious (i.e. really goofy). With nerves I walk more quickly than usual and she struggles to keep up with me and I am sensing that I am annoying her, not least when she gives up on the umbrella being a shared experience and she pulls it down. We walk along a weird part of London (to me) to a coffee shop she said she saw on her way to the Tate from Tower Bridge station. Conversation is a little stunted and I begin talking to her about work which is a royal snorer and an indication that we are going to a bad place. Eventually we reach the coffee/tea shop she was talking about. This is weird to me, a granny parlour on a Saturday afternoon, is this a sure sign of failure to liven up proceedings on my part? Whenever I think of tea rooms I think of the one in Withnail & I rather than Central Perk from Friends, it's all a bit too sophisticated for a white bread like me. We are greeted at the door by a gentleman saying "welcome in, we have just put a pot on boil for you." What? Eventually we get sat down and pick out what we are drinking. It's all kind of exotic but...I dunno. We sit down and things are really relaxed but to a degree of falling asleep. She asks me "what are you doing tonight?" and mentally I reply "getting Dim Sum and hanging out with you." Instead I say "nothing planned" and she tells me that she has a birthday meal to go and that she has to leave at 5.30. Oh! I plummet; I thought I was more of her plans today, whoops. Now that's why she said "we will have to have Dim Sum in the afternoon." We sit talking for an hour plus and I am really uncomfortable in addition to over compensating in conversation, I am the king of faux enthusiasm. She has some fantastic stories and I love being with her. She shows me how she is learning sign language and it blows my mind. I feel I just sound so neanderthal in comparison to her. And she is so unphasable, for some reason we get into the conversation declaring that it is almost impossible to annoy/offend her. Good job really, it seems I go out of my way to repulse people these days. That said, when I put sugar in my coffee and stir with the same spoon, it feels like a bigger faux pas than blatantly parping in a crowded room.

Time comes around and it is time to make moves. It is really fun and enjoyable but it all lacks spark and for this I take total responsibility. I am also paranoid to the hills, is the friend's birthday a get out clause? We walk together to Tower Bridge and now I am thankfully more relaxed and walking at a more normal human pace. For some reason we wind things up talking about female footwear. We board the train together and tell her that I am heading to Oxford Street ("might as well while I am up here"). We hit the Northern Line and I figure I'll go around the houses and get off at Tottenham Court Road. She then suggests I'll be better off getting off at Bank (trying to get rid of me). We sit on the train for two stops chatting. She points out a Manga sticker on a pole which reminded me of a moment with B. When Bank arrives, I mess up. I get straight up out of my chair and barely say "bye." I hear her semi-shouting "have a good time" or something but I am gone. Some might call this a runner (ho ho). As I walk along the platform, the train passes and I see her. I wave and she doesn't, she is just sat looking ahead, looking pissed off but this is also kind of her automatic expression. Ultimately though, the way things have panned out, I feel like I have been punched in the head.

I wind up on Tottenham Court Road headed like an addict to retail therapy to Fopp. I finally get the final four Nick Cave albums I am needing to complete my/his discography. Sad truth is though that I still have not come anywhere near to listening to the other four CDs I bought the other day. I wind up wandering around the centre of London kind of aimlessly; I really did not want to be home on my own tonight. I stagger up Oxford Street on early evening Saturday and this really does feel like another world. I find myself in Electronics Boutique (or whatever it is called) looking for old EA Playstation 1 sports games. I also wind up in HMV and it is 7pm and the way things ended (on the train) is really beginning to ride on my mind. I go through the HMV DVD sales (awesome) and indulge in retail therapy even more purchasing Ladies Man, September, Alice, Being There and Bully all on DVD. Yeah, I'm fucking made of money (then again, I didn't spend hardly anything on Phoebe in the end).

I decide to text her to apologise (kind of) for not saying goodbye properly, pointing out how I thought things ended weirdly and to ask her if she had a good time, fishing for backhanded compliments. Kind of. I am also paranoid to the hills because my ears are burning and, as ridiculous as this sounds, this is my main motive/incentive for sending her this text message. Of course I get no response straight away, she never does text straight away, which has its pros and cons but cutting out the immediately expectancy of a text message really does cool the whole medium/concept down.

I walk back down the other direction/side of Oxford Street and end up walking down Greek Street. The bars look fantastic but I am on my own and never will I be a barfly. Finally I throw in the towel and head back to Liverpool Street and home. At Liverpool Street I get a cappuccino and it is the greatest tasting thing in history but sadly though it is too early to pick up the Sunday papers, I probably just miss them by minutes. I ride the 8.00 train home and it is mostly empty, the real loser train for people with no place to be on a Saturday night. I can't remember how or who it happens but I wind up texting Sara who peps me up when I need it most, when in the light of things appearing to go semi wrong, she serves as the voice of reason, my hero. I never got my Dim Sum so she orders me to get a Chinese as soon as I get back into Colchester. I can't be arsed, I haven't had a thing all day and I am not hungry, I want to suffer, that is what being alpha male is about (ha ha). As soon as I get into Colchester I head to Asda and buy one of those Chinese chicken wing things you can do in the microwave. I also kind some frankfurters in a sale, so spot the single man on a Saturday night buying random meat products.

I get in and finally get around to reading the days newspapers. OK, there is actually something pretty comforting about getting in on a Saturday after a long day in London will some head space and evening remaining (it is bliss after Millwall games on a Saturday to just get in and chill out in my room and recap/celebrate the day). And TV doesn't let me down; Dead Poet's Society is on book marking my day with an Ethan Hawke experience. The film is pretty nish but watchable when looking to fall asleep to a movie.

In the early hours I awaken to a text from Phoebe timed 00.36 saying "Hiya! Sorry so late! Yeah i had a great time! Hope u too! Thnks for intro edward hopper! Really like his work!" The world has just become a slight better place, sweetdreams.

Np: Bernard Hermann - Twisted Nerve


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