Monday, September 27, 2004

August 21 (Saturday): Yellow Fever. Today's episode title was random and not intentional. Isn't it ironic, don't you think?

I awaken on time, worried about not waking up on time. Basically, I wake up in a hurry, so much to do, so little time to do it. I run a bath and go that extra mile hygiene wise that you go when out to impress. I bath but not a normal bath, a bath of champions, of all the good pong thrown in at once. If I don't do anything today, I am going to smell good.

There is a thump at my door and a package arrives through the post from America. I open it and my Adventures Of Pete And Pete moody DVDs have arrive from America. I had started to worry about how kosher the discs were and even started to question their existence. I slip a disc (of the four) into my player just to check that they work. The discs do, nice work Antipromotions! The discs are pretty lo-fi but they have put a lot of effort into menus etc and it looks like the episodes have been downloaded from the same source I was taking them last year (Kazaa) as there is an annoying station logo in the corner (Canadian station The N?). All 39 episodes are present, where else are you going to see them now? Nickelodeon sure as fuck do not look likely to re-air or release them. I take receiving these discs today as the beginning of great things for Jason today.

Early morning I get a text message from Azmei wishing me a happy birthday for tomorrow and telling me that she is currently on her way to the airport. Bon voyage.

For the remainder of my morning, I tear around the flat trying to pull myself together, into the best me, the Super Jason! And to be honest, I scrub up quite well sometimes. With only minutes to spare, I finally crack the Queer Eye Straight Guy book open. Phoebe Toronto has already told me that I far from need this book but I guess it all helps. Except, one minute later after flipping through the book I find myself only more confused than ever. Time to bite the bullet and leave (make like a tree).

After annoying amounts of traffic I finally get to the train station, get my ticket and get on a train. On my way I receive a text message from Syra asking if I went to the Hippodrome last night after all (“no way!�). Today I don't feel as enthused as ideally I would/should, basically I am just shattered. The plan is to meet at Leicester Square station at 1.00, so I catch the train as near as to 11.00 as possible. The ride up is eventless save for the amazing looking black lady sat opposite me. I find myself staring at her, at her amazing smooth and beautiful dark skin. Elsewhere on the train, it is busy with kids on their way to Chelmsford to the V2004 festival and I wish I were joining them. Your V kids are a strange breed and generally you have to regard it as a real oddball festival, there seems no cohesion to the lineups ever picked and never quite enough in the lineup to make a music fan (myself) to go along. Personally I think it is a poor show that I have never been to a V festival and this year is no different, I am regretting not going as this year there are the Pixies and the Strokes tugging at my attention. I look however at the kind of kids that go to V and they’re a strange breed, they really are not the type of people I associate with festivals, they’re the students types that go off to university on their parents bankroll and are not your traditional pikey students types as hard as they might dress scruffy and plead poverty, they remain somewhat air brushed.

I arrive in London in really good time, it barely being 12.00. For (personal) security reasons I head straight to Leicester Square, what if the Taliban blow up the underground system and I have to walk across from Liverpool Street to Leicester Square and I don’t have enough time to get there for 1.00. Yes I’m fucked up. Anyways, I get there well ahead of time, no fear and wander around the Charing Cross end of Leicester Square for a while. I take out £50 from the cash machine on my MBNA Virgin credit card, how wise this move proves will have to be judged at a later date. I find myself standing in a queue behind four guys obviously on their way to Old Compton Street, gotta love London. I actually find myself nervous and pushing in the wrong pin code into the machine. Finally when I am asked how much money I want to take out, I type £50 and wait. A prompter comes on the screen “you will be charged for this transaction, do you want to continue?â€? and I’m not sure which button I press. The card shoots out and no money, so I guess I pressed the “cancelâ€? button. Anyway, I hope so otherwise I walked away from the machine to find another, leaving £50 for the next punter to pocket.

I re-enter the confines of Leicester Square station and wait at the top of the stairs for Phoebe for 1.00. I watch so many people arrive and pretty quickly, people watching is fast becoming one of my favourite activities, especially when it is in London. I stand around waiting patiently but uncomfortably. I watch the police and I begin to get paranoid that might suggest me as a terrorist threat if I wait too long and that they might begin to question or usher me on. I also watch all the people get off the their trains and I see literally hundreds of Orientals passing by and suddenly I begin to wonder what Phoebe looks like, it has been about six weeks since I last saw her. Am I fickle?

Almost on the dot, at 1.00pm, there she is looking amazing. I spot her immediately even though for the first time I have ever seen, she is wearing her hair up. We exchange an awkward greeting but we seem happy to see eachother all the same. Immediately she begins marching us out of the station, towards the restaurant she has chosen to take us. This is good. She asks me how I am and anyone who knows me knows that I just can’t answer that question with a “good� or “fine�, I also have to go into some kind of detail. I tell her I am tired and she says she is also and that she didn’t really want to come today because she is so tired. Oh great, that sounds good, she hardly sounds enthusiastic about things but what am I to say, its pretty much my attitude also except she has the honesty to say it. And it is not necessarily a slight on me (is it?). She also adds that she has to be back by 6pm, is this some kind of ancient Chinese curfew?

We fly over to Chinatown and I am recognising the city better than ever. The restaurant she chooses for us is upstairs, above a food store, the kind of restaurant you would probably miss if you did not know about it beforehand. Already I feel I am benefiting from her Chinese/Cantonese insider knowledge. We sit down and act very adult. Phoebe wastes not time in pulling out and giving me a birthday card for tomorrow which makes me unbelievably happy. Phoebe immediately disguards one menu with “that’s for touristsâ€? and leads me through the list of fantastic dishes including crab meat. She also picks custard doughballs. Nice! Dim Sum is fantastic, personally I have the best time talking to Phoebe over dinner and she appears to be/feel likewise. We discuss all sorts of recent developments (mainly her lost ACCA exam paper) and she tells me that my Cantonese is good (which it isn’t). I act as if when in rome and use chopsticks but she tells me that I am doing it wrong, I am definitely using them differently to her. The custard doughballs create something of an issue when the waiter only manages to bring out three (all other food being brought out in fours). As much as I really enjoy my doughball and want a second, I am a gentleman and make sure Phoebe has it because she tells me how much she likes them. We eat and talk for an hour and a half before calling for the bill. The bill arrives and it is just £13! That sounds like mates rates to me (this is a local restaurant for local people?).

We emerge back onto the streets of Chinatown with the afternoon young and things going well. We walk through the arches and I attempt to find/point out the restaurant we went on during Drew's stag do, the restaurant where I got coked up, blew up a rubber glove with my mouth and was setting fire to chopsticks. Maybe if they saw me return they would chop me, so perhaps it is for the best when I am unable to find it. Instead Phoebe points out to me, establishments where she has seen/heard of Triad altercations (and by altercations, I mean killings!). Phoebe tells me that it is too hot and tiring to go around the shops today so that we should catch a movie and us being on Leicester Square makes this prime. We stagger around the many cinemas and begin bouncing ideas off eachother. Dodgeball is just out and I really want to see that but Phoebe lets me know that she thinks that looks like the most moronic film ever made. She suggests King Arthur. I guess it does have my main man Ray Winstone in it but at the end of the day, no way! We find a cinema with Before Sunset on. Yes! I tell her all about it and she sounds keen but then ends it all with “but no�. Phoebe is not much of a romantic it seems. An eleven hour attempt/suggestion is made for the Stepford Wives (which does look good) but it doesn’t finish until close to 6pm so we find ourselves unable to reach an agreement. I begin delicately asking about the 6pm and she tells me that she “goes mad and turns into a werewolf in the evenings�. Ha ha, no really you’re freaking me out. No dice.

In the end we wind up heading towards Covent Garden to check out the market and anything that is going on there. As we walk there we talk about things and Phoebe sounds heavy, telling me about her ill Grandmother in Hong Kong. On the way we come across a photograph gallery and check it out. There is always something to do in London. She then shows me the new cellphone that she is getting, one with a camera. Cool! We wind up in Covent Garden and its not so hot snot. I tell her about Forbidden Planet and attempt to steer us out of Covent Garden. I proceed to only manage in getting us horribly lost, which surprises me as I would have thought Phoebe would know central London like the back of her hand. We eventually wind up on The Strand (yes, going completely in the wrong direction) and we pass Stanley Gibbons (the stamp shop!) and for some reason I drag her in there to see the autographed pictures. We look around the boring shop like a scene out of Before Sunrise or something. This is the point Phoebe chooses to tell me that she is having a really good/nice time. I’m surprised and overjoyed by this gesture. We leave the shop trying wring the stench of stamp collecting from our clothes and I resume leading the blind towards Forbidden Planet. As we pass Hays Covent Garden and it begins to become obvious that I am just leading us towards Trafalgar Square I turn us back towards the general direction of Covent Garden. We walk down some street I doubt I will ever see again and Phoebe steers us inside to show me a book she wants to read about shopping. In there we/she finds some Garfield books and she tells me that this will cheer her up. I don’t really find the Garfield too weird (well I do) but Stevo thinks it is really weird. I dunno what to think. We eventually manage to get back to Covent Garden (recognisable) as she tells me more tales of The Triad. By accident we happen across the office building in which Jack used to work in London and then we pass Neal's Yard and opt out of going into Rough Trade (remember my bad experience there a few weeks ago everybody?).

Finally! We make it to Forbidden Planet and Phoebe says to me "you were looking for Shaftsbury Avenue?" like I am some kind of idiot. Whoops. We go inside and finally it seems I have found a girl that I can drag into Forbidden Planet who likes it (or at least placates me and pretends to like it). This shop turns Jason into a kid in a sweet shop, I just love the Simpsons action figures. Phoebe likes Manga so it is set up/made up for her fortunately. We find the City Hunter book that she was telling me was her favourite and being that lunch was so cheap I buy it. She really seems to get into all the books on offer and I genuinely feel like I hit a home run and have managed to find something she genuinely likes/enjoys. I pop to the checkout to purchase my book and when I look across the shop at her we shoot/swop/exchange smiles in a way that I have not seen/felt since I did with Bella. This is pure stuff, 100%. Phoebe also pulls out Spirited Away and recommends that but getting that will be for another time. I take her round and show her American Splendor, trying desperately (and failing) to explain why the book is so good. We makes moves to leave and as we pass the Eros section Phoebe thinks she has found more Manga and picks up a book. She immediately slams the book down in disgust/embarrassment when she realises that it is a porno comic. God love a prude.

We waddle up Shaftsbury Avenue joyfully, me continuing to try and explain my apparent drinking problem she appears to think I have (“the bosses keep getting me drunk, I do it to further my career!�). We wind up in my usual haunt, Fopp. We check out all the shit in there. Oh my, the entire Massive Attack catalogue all for a fiver each! Instead I get Evol by Sonic Youth and try SO hard to get her to buy Ghost World on DVD. I fail in my attempts. I show her the Sopranos DVD and she shows some interest but little enthusiasm. From there we peak in Magma but that’s a pretty poor shop, too fucking hip by far (hip meaning expensive). Now is the point she says she has to go home to Mill Hill. It is only 4.45, oh dear what a poor showing. I walk with her up Charing Cross Road towards Leicester Square station. She asks me what I am doing and I decide to stay in the City around Oxford Street. I should really be going to see Marceline’s band Uter in Highbury or hooking up with Stevo but really I don’t want to ruin what has been a good day so far. We reach the station and it becomes that awkward moment to say goodbye. Last time, this moment was not deal with very effectively so this time I just grab her for a huge, just for some kind of gesture/feeling. I huge her and there is little there. It ends and she skips down the steps of the station shouting “bye� to me in Cantonese. I yell back “lets do this again soon!�. The end.

I stagger back up Charing Cross Road with real heartattack, even more than ever I now like this girl and still it just not seem to be happening. I really did not want it all to end so soon and it really should not have been so brief. At the current rate of seeing her only every six weeks, this really is something of a poor return for all I spend on her emotionally. Here is a fantastic girl who takes a hell of a lot of effort and now it needs to be weighed up whether the efforts justify the returns. I really should not be so clinical about things.

Pulling myself together, I wind up in Borders looking for books. I find myself looking for Billy Budd by Harold Melville, a book that might hold some personal answers in my current bout of self exploration/soul searching. I buy up the book and head elsewhere.

Since I have started seeing Phoebe, I know see and notice more Orientals than ever. Asians truly are a set apart, the most beautiful ladies on earth, darker toned and with more facial expressions and characteristics than any Caucasian female could ever pray for. I am so judgemental.

Whilst in Borders I check my phone WAP/GPRS for the football results and Millwall have won 1-0 at Coventry. Yes! First goal and first win of the season, today is officially a good day and perhaps the turning point in my fortunes? Here's hoping.

I find myself in Sportspages and then heading up Old Compton Street (through the yellow comic store) turning into Soho. I hit Berwick Street and all the record shops. These shops always have and always will play the greatest music. Maybe its because their stereo set up is so good, so professional but everything just sounds on! In Record And Music Exchange some shagged out old Joy Division record is on and the thundering bass and clarity of everything involved just manages in making a grown man almost weep. When I arrive at Selectadisc, it is about ten minutes away from closing up and they are still flying and pumping out of the PA is Throwing Things by Superchunk which immediately transports me back to my personal ground zero for music in the early to mid nineties. Following that track, Sugar comes flying on and it begins to dawn on my that alt/indie/college rock never did manage to pick itself up after its peak in the nineties and manage to come through with a really REALLY good crop of new tuneful bands/acts, instead it became more dirge like and elitist than ever. And that probably adds up to why I stopped loving music.

I wind up on Oxford Street like some pikey tourist and the night is still young but with options of places to see and people to do, I contradict myself by wanting to remain in the City but not around anyone. Curiosity gets the better of me and I head to Goodge Street to check out the church that Phoebe tells me that she goes to every Sunday, the American church where she worships her Lutheran beliefs. I guess now going on such a sightseeing tour is being a bit stalker-esqe but I got money to spend and time to waste. I find the building easy as pie, its not that far after the Church Of Scientology office. I make all apologies but I still cannot lift my guard where organised religion is involved, I guess it will always make me suspicious.

To be honest, there really isn't much to see, the American Church is just a closed building, it could be any kind of city monument/building really. I pause and find myself in a Starbucks sipping on the largest cup of coffee I can find/buy, costing me about £3.50. This is my first opportunity to get off my legs in hours. I sit in the shop window drinking, the perfect metaphor for my life. I pull out the birthday card that Phoebe gave me and I open it looking for clues, no dice. Do not let television lie to you, coffee houses are not like Central Perk. I drink caffeine like an alcoholic and I knock the brew in minutes, it does taste just so good but also at the same time it is/was the same price as a Happy Meal, equally unhealthy but ultimately more filling/fulfilling.

I board the Goodge Street tube and listen to two hipsters talking about the Adam And Joe DVD (note to self, must get that). Ten minutes later, I find myself on/at Liverpool Street throwing the towel in on the day. Oh yes, once more after a “date� with Phoebe, I find myself catching the Loser Train home. In my opinion, if you travel to London on a Saturday and fail to return home on the train without the Sunday newspaper, you have failed to have a worthwhile time in the capital. Before boarding the train I get a McDonalds, doing the 99p deal. I go up to the ethnic gentleman and ask for a double cheeseburger and he replies “how many would you like?�. “One!?�. Oh my, being asked such a question is surely a definitive sign of putting on weight.

I ride the loser train home and it is a bittersweet experience. I begin reading Billy Budd whilst sat opposite and middle-aged, middle class woman with no visible faults or frailties appears to be enjoying life and the train ride home. I envy her existence. And then sat opposite, in the seats to my left is the most beautiful Oriental family of the two parents and a little girl mischievously barking with curiosity and counting aloud to impress her mother. I don’t know, these things just seem to stand out more prominently sometimes.

When I get back to Colchester I consider calling Mark out (it is only around 9pm) but I am just too shattered after my day. Instead I turn in at home and dive into my Saturdays newspapers I am yet to read and need to pick up before Saturday is over and it is too late. I watch the Borat Television Programme re-run on TV and fall asleep. I awaken a little later, it still Saturday night stuck at home and Phoebe Toronto comes online and begins chatting to me. I tell her about my past few days and I make a good attempt/effort at sounding like the most interesting/fun person in history (I am so full of shit). While I am talking to her, all the while Channel Four is showing highlights from this weekends V Festival in Chelmsford and it really doesn’t look so hot. The nights crosses over midnight and Phoebe Toronto is able to be the first person in 2004 to wish me happy birthday. Soon afterwards she leaves to go to her own bed and I fall asleep watching the V Festival on TV. All life ends.

np: Superchunk - Throwing Things


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