neither here nor there: day 1

Travel to London on foot, subway, bus, and plane.

And we're off. Ah, the well-packed bags and the printed itinerary...all the planning and organization soon to unravel as the messiness of travel kicks in...

It's strange eating up all the eggs and o.j. still in the fridge at 5 a.m. Also odd walking to the T an hour later to catch the first Sunday morning train, bags rolling behind us, keeping a sort of rhythm as the wheels pass over cracks in the sidewalk. We actually missed the train we were aiming for so we didn't get to the airport until about 7:20 for a 9 a.m. flight. We spent the next hour and twenty-five minutes checking in and getting through security, with no time for coffee, but enjoyed listening to the likes of Journey and Avril Lavigne. We weren't the only ones who didn't allow three hours to make it to the gate; plenty of folks scrambled on after us. In fact, I remember being surprised we took off more or less on time. Ah, the sacrifice we'd have to pay later...

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Apparently they still feed you on international flights. Neal and I got one each of the two breakfast choices - French toast and omelette - and shared. Later we had little sandwiches, leaving little need to tap into the huge Ziplock bag I'd packed with snacks - energy bars, granola bars, pretzels, mixed nuts. This would come in handy later. We watched Music & Lyrics from little screens in the backs of the seats in front of us.

Overall, it was a pretty pleasant flight. Little did we know our bags were still in Boston. There were about 20 passengers in line at the baggage services well after the conveyor belt stopped producing bags. They blamed it on a broken conveyor belt back in Boston. They had to know, taking off, that an entire cart of bags was being left behind. And all we got in return was an overnight kit containing an odd assortment of toiletries. No shampoo, but hairspray. My hair might be greasy but it ain't goin' nowhere!

All things considered, I think I handled it pretty well. I'd say I was in a weird sort of denial waiting in line, sending Neal to other conveyor belts where I was sure I'd seen our totally generic bags pop up. As I got closer to the front and bits and pieces of what had happened filtered back down the line I felt really angry. But by the time I reached the front of the line I had mostly accepted my fate and looked forward to what was inside the little blue travel kit. The stages of lost luggage, perhaps?

Anyway, they assured us our bags were being put on the next flight out right then as we stood in line and that they'd deliver them to our hotel room sometime the next day. Our work there was done. We purchased our Oyster cards and began our first trip on the London Underground, taking the Picadilly line west to Kings Cross and transfering there to the High Barnet branch of the Northern line, all the way to Tufnell Park, where the charming Europa B&B is located. On the train I met an American woman (she said she was an actress and the more Neal and I thought about it, the more we think she looked familiar, but I still haven't been able to pinpoint who she was) on her way back to London, where her daughter lives, from, of all places, Athens. I'm pretty sure the recording on the Tufnell Park lifts to the street level is Judi Dench ("no smoking anywhere on the underground"). The trip took a bit over an hour, followed by a 10 or so minute walk (but, hey, no bags to schlep behind us!). It was well after 11 p.m. by the time we checked in but, of course, it only felt like dinnertime to us.

The B&B was nice enough - surprisingly comfortable queen bed, little t.v., and pink toilet paper in the private bathroom (that was a huge plus) - but I still think it's pretty insane that for the same price (on Priceline, but still) we stayed in a four-star hotel in Athens. The last line in my journal from around 1 a.m. the next morning, when I was jotting all this down, reads: "the luggage sitch puts a wrench in my itinerary but that's what this experience is all about, right?" Be careful what you wish for.


neither here nor there: preface

This is the last photo I took before the batteries in my digital camera died on top of the Acropolis in Athens. Not to worry, though. I took hundreds of photos during our trip and Neal took, I think, about four rolls of film, including one roll of slides.

I think I'll dive into the day-by-day a bit later, maybe tomorrow or Friday, since the details of the trip continue to sink in. I can tell you, though, that in all the traveling and moving around that I've done (growing up a military/government brat with chronic itchy feet), this trip was easily one of the most eventful in both amazing and bordering on traumatic ways. Items forgotten, lost and/or found included the international phone card left sitting by our home phone, our luggage, my passport, and a ten pound bill found on the ground walking back to our hotel on our last night in crazy expensive London. We bickered about royal protocol, reading maps, and mostly, where to eat. I ate more dairy milk candy bars than I'd like to admit (or tally). I observed that English people really do know how to queue up and if you fly from one European country to another, be prepared for multiple levels of security (and frisking) as you wander the airport during your four-hour layover. Everything worked out pretty well in the end. Stay tuned for all the gritty details.

In the meantime, how excited are you that So You Think You Can Dance started last week? I just caught up on the two-hour premier in time for tonight's second episode. That show is officially my favorite dose of reality t.v. Yep, that's right, even over ANTM. I'll be keeping a close eye on local (i.e. Dorchester, Mass.) lads Jamal and E-Knock.


it's all Greek to me

I haven't finished actually packing yet (waiting on laundry to get around to that) but other than that minor detail I'm feeling surprisingly ready and not nearly as anxious as I usually get before a trip. I think the distance and duration and complicated nature of our London-Athens itinerary hasn't fully hit me yet, which is probably, in a weird way, a good thing. But I'm a pretty organized person in general and I've spent a lot of time this week reading through my guide books, looking up stuff online, and putting together a color-coded itinerary. I know that last part doesn't sound terribly laidback and spontaneous, but there is some flexibility in there (planned, of course - one pint of beer at a pub here, 15 minutes of relaxing on the beach there, etc.)...I just don't want to miss anything!

And earlier this week, Neal and I enjoyed a pre-trip Greek date, checking out Greek art at the MFA (as well as the Hopper exhibit) and following that with dinner at the nearby "Greek Isles" restaurant. I got the chicken kebab and I have to agree with the Phoenix review...it was a little bland. I should have had some sort of pita-wrapped sandwich (the picture in the review matches pretty closely to what a guy sitting near us ordered right before we left), and what I was really craving along those lines was souvlaki, but they didn't seem to have it on the menu. Good thing I'm going to Greece!

As for art, the MFA has what is probably a fairly standard couple of galleries of mostly classical Greek art, which is exactly what I was looking for, including a small-scale copy of the statue of Athena and a maquette of the Acropolis. I learned that most of what we see in museums as far as statues of antiquity go are marble copies made 5 or 6 centuries later, primarily in Italy during Roman times. Sometimes the marble (as in the case of the reduced copy of the statue of Athena) came from quarries near the original site of the sculpture. The sign near the replica claims it's "among the best of the few surviving Roman replicas."

And who doesn't love a good maquette? I'd love to do something like this - with an edgy contemporary twist, of course - for my thesis show.

I'll be trading in my laptop for a good old-fashioned journal and sketchbook while I'm away, but I'll be back in a couple of weeks with a full report on my pilgrimage.


and the top goes home


[Spoiler alert: don't read this if you're on the west coast and it's not quite 8 o'clock yet] Once again, one of my favorites (attitude issues aside) and undeniably one of the best of the bunch since the beginning doesn't even make it to the final two. When Tyra whipped out Natasha's photo instead of Renee's, I was like, oh no you didn't! It's like Natasha cast a spell on the judges (and most of my friends who watch the show and seem to disagree with me) and they're as clueless as she is! She's managed to somehow spin every negative experience, bad photo, botched commercial, into a positive outcome for herself. And good for her, but this isn't the next top wow them with your overly confident yet clueless self competition! It's a modeling competition and the best should win, gosh dangit! Now, last season, I could understand why Melrose didn't take the title. Despite being more or less better than Caridee, I realize they're looking for a very specific package - edgy and commercial. But Renee had the package! So she had a little attitude occasionally...who doesn't?! I can relate to that! I'd buy the lipstick she was wearing!

But the judges are obviously looking for something else and it's gotten more and more mysterious with each cycle. Tyra described Natasha and Jaslene as "what America's Next Top Model is all about." What does that mean?! I thought it was about modeling, but apparently it's about having an accent, either being from "the hood" or about the contemporary immigrant experience. I'm so confused! The almost perfect girls get the boot because of one flaw...you photograph too old, your chin looks manly, your lips are too puffy. "But," Tyra continued, "most importantly, Jaslene is fierce." Fair enough, works for me. Jaslene winning made Natasha bumping Renee mostly irrelevant. I'm happy she won and she was my top pick from the beginning, if you'll remember. I'm just not sure her win can erase all my other complaints about the show. A new panel of judges would help. I think Twiggy's very charming but she seems to be too easily seduced by personality. And Ms. Jay contributes little aside from gratituitous ruffles. The guest judges don't have all the information they need, really, to make a fair assessment of a given week. And Nigel...well, Nigel's pretty good actually, and damn fine. Maybe he should take over the show.

In other t.v. news...Neal and I watched the season finale of Gilmore Girls tonight since we had conflicting obligations yesterday which kept us from watching it live. I cried. This season started off a little rocky but seemed to hit its stride a few episodes in and was pretty good toward the end. It's sad because Rory's moving away from Stars Hollow and the show's ending and you just imagine all the cast members are genuinely sad, not just acting it as they say goodbye. Plus, the show's been on for seven years - the longest of any show we're currently watching. I was in college when the show started. A lot has happened both personally and, like, in the world, since 2000.

Why do good things have to end?


California is an island

This is pretty much how I felt last week. I always feel this way at the end of the semester. I used to get mildly depressed. It's like those stories of astronauts who went to the moon and came home depressed. How do you follow something like that? Not that being in school is anything like going to the moon, but it can be a traumatic transition from crazy round-the-clock busy-ness to nothing. And nothing is what's on my calendar these days. Well, nothing that pays or that's required for class credit. Hopefully the paid part will change soon, but in the meantime, I suppose I have plenty to do to keep me busy. I have to move out of my studio and try to cram a cubicle-sized space full of stuff into our already cluttered spare room, finish planning this crazy research trip beginning in less than a week, and tie up a lot of loose ends at school.

So what did I do last week? Well, the first bit was devoted to last-minute review board prep. There were a couple of minor additions to existing projects, like mapping where all the lost objects folks have told me about so far were last seen:

The map thing is all part of this recent focus on the theme of geographical displacement and how it relates to other ideas I've been interested in, like memory, loss, copies of things in relation to their original, etc. As I alluded to in an earlier post, Neal and I were working on a collaboration that involved mapping and remembering apartments we used to live in and the mostly crappy furniture we schlepped from one block of Oakland's Adams Point neighborhood to another over a six year period. Then we moved here and got rid of all but a half-dozen or so major furniture items. What survived the trip, I realized very close to my board, was a lot more interesting to me than what didn't make the cut, and I managed to find then-and-now/here-and-there photos, like the bed (Oakland image is on the left; Boston image is on the right):

...and the AK Rocker chair:

Going through these photos, I wondered why we got rid of so much stuff but kept this chair. I think the fact that it came apart was significant in our decision to keep it. But, anyway, you get the idea. I'm not sure where to take this, but it does have a little something to do with London and Athens and the Parthenon (believe it or not) so I'm banking on this trip shedding a lot of light and wisdom on my future art practice.


but is it art?

Yay. I've survived my final review board and have officially entered my thesis "year" (more like seven months for me). The board itself went well, but was a bit more challenging than last semester. Constructive, but a tad stressful (I was incredibly irritable and a bit emotional afterwards). Maybe it's because it's my last and now I'm on my own for nearly four months of summer. Which will hopefully prove to be a productive time of increased clarity, but it's a little scary to think the next time I'm at school in any official capacity, for thesis committee meetings and the like, I'll be just a few months away from my thesis show. Anyway, I'm still processing the details, but I thought I'd share the documentation.

The spread (art):

the spread, art
The spread (food):

the spread, food