Archive for October, 2009

Shady Slim

I find it very odd that Andre Agassi would employ an assistant who abused crystal meth, even if he did have a cool name like Slim.

Wouldn’t a professional athlete want a healthy, drug free assistant? Or, if one wasn’t available, how about a druggie who was a bit more discreet?

Maybe Slim could have waited until he got home to snort his meth. If he enjoyed dissolving it into Coke, as Agassi says, he shouldn’t have had too tough a time concealing the habit.

I am now nostalgic for the late ’90s, when the economy was robust enough to offer job security to people like Slim. He not only tempted his famous boss to risk his career by snorting illegal drugs right alongside him, but also got high himself while assisting him.

Of course, Agassi ultimately fired Slim. I wonder what finally sealed his fate, if getting high on the job was acceptable.

Halloween Hysteria

Target Halloween display
Having spent the past seven or so Halloweens living outside of the US, I am now blown away by the level of haunted decor that our new neighbors use to mark the holiday.

In London, it was easy to forget that Halloween had arrived. There were few, if any, decorations — at least in our West London neighborhood.
Headless ghouls
Here, it’s impossible to ignore. Each house has more elaborate — and more terrifying — decorations, from store bought headless ghouls, to homemade cotton spider webs.

One neighbor has built a mini graveyard, complete with ghoulish hands reaching out from the ground. Another has made an incredibly creepy looking parade of skeletons wearing suits.

Candy in the aislesI had forgotten about the over-the-top store displays, with an orgy of candy in each aisle.

You could find Halloween candy in UK super markets, but not nearly as much as you see here. And it was much more discreetly presented.

We asked a neighbor here how much candy we should buy for trick or treaters. Her eyes grew wide. “Tons,” she said.

Doctors' door
Even our kids’ pediatrician’s office is in on the fun — with smiling jack o’ lanterns pasted on the door, as though to welcome trick or treaters.

If I were a kid, I’d have nightmares about the skeletons, ghosts and ghouls I saw in front of nearly every house. But if you grow up with it, you must get used to it. Kids seem to love it. In fact, I saw our neighbor’s son helping to craft the skeleton parade in his front lawn.

It all feels a world away from last Halloween, which we spent in Paris. It was a bit cold, rainy, and devoid of any spooky decor, but lots of fun anyway.

Say Anything

After celebrating five years of marriage, my British husband made a startling revelation: he had never seen “Say Anything.” In fact, he had never heard of it.

I was flabbergasted. Back in the early ’90s, it was hard to spend a weekend with my female or male friends without hearing a quote from that movie.

Boys used to like to compare themselves favorably to Lloyd Dobler, played geekily but lovably by John Cusack: “I’m the type of guy who would tell a girl to watch out for broken glass on the ground — like that scene in ‘Say Anything.'”

Girls would sigh, and say they were looking for a guy who wore his heart on his sleeve — like Lloyd (“I gave her my heart, and she gave me a pen.”)

And of course, my husband and I are not the only ones celebrating a milestone — the iconic film turns 20 this year.

I tried to explain to my husband why the movie is such a cult classic. Surely, the image of Lloyd holding a boom box over his head, blasting “In Your Eyes,” outside his estranged girlfriend’s window was poignant enough to cement it into the archives of any culture.

Or maybe the idea of anyone, Lloyd Dobler included, playing Peter Gabriel outside an ex’s house offends the British psyche. In a land where boys like to play it cool, and refuse to admit affection for anyone unless several pints of lager are involved, overt gestures of love don’t translate well onto the screen.

Luckily, my husband has agreed to watch it, so I will be able to embark on a cultural journey: is “Say Anything” appealing to Brits and Americans alike?

Vaccinate debate

H1N1 vaccineWe had our three year old vaccinated against H1N1 today, because our pediatrician offered, and we happened to have a doctor’s appointment booked for this afternoon (excuse the blurry photo — taking a picture while holding a disgruntled toddler on an examining table proved difficult).

I was a bit wary, because the vaccine had been rushed to the market, but the doctor was incredibly enthusiastic, and told me that my concerns were unfounded.

And our poor kids have been poked like pin cushions by an array of shots over the past year, because schools here require more inoculations than their counterparts in the UK.

Did we do the right thing?

Lost and found

I’m glad that some Londoners get their missing property back. The Tube’s trove of lost and found items (false teeth, fish, cell phones…) implies that goods that go missing on the Underground aren’t gone — just lost.

If only the same were true above ground. When I lost track of my phone in Whole Foods, I never saw it again. The stroller I left outside my daughter’s nursery school disappeared quickly while I nipped in to pick her up. And the wallet I left in my purse by the Starbucks on Notting Hill Gate went missing for good.

But maybe people are a bit more honest deep down, on the Tube.

Naked Memories

Now that’s what I miss about London: not just the monuments, but also the wacky things that happen around them.

You don’t tend to see street performers taking off their clothes in front of crowds of tourists here in Atlanta. In fact, you don’t often see crowds of tourists. And if I were to happen upon a naked street performer, I would probably duck, for fear of a gun-toting proponent of decency who might object to the display.

Now I yearn for the daily dose of indecency I used to encounter during my eight years of living in London: the odd used condom I would step over on my way to the playground with the kids; the guy who set off fireworks in front of our apartment building; the men who would relieve themselves just outside my office.

Atlanta is a much more sterile place. A neighbor here described recently how she called 911 because there was a drunk man passed out in her front yard. I can’t say that I had the same experience in London (I would encounter the odd drunken reveler outside my office, but never at home — not a party neighborhood, I suppose). But if I did, I wouldn’t have called 999 (Britain’s answer to 911) — maybe the local police non-emergency line.

But public nudity and drunkenness help to make London unique. When I first visited London, I was with my parents, staying in a family friend’s place by Edgware Road. Late at night, we heard a commotion. Outside, there was a 20-something year old man, stark naked, riding in a shopping cart, pushed by a stumbling group of youths.

Back then, I didn’t know what a bachelor party (what the Brits call a “stag do”) was. But I did know that a city where you could ride through the streets, nude in a shopping cart, had to be pretty fun.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shows never die

It’s about time: Britain’s most famous composer is launching a sequel to Phantom of the Opera. Love Never Dies will open in March on London’s West End, more than 20 years after the debut of the original (which is still playing, of course, in London and New York).

Lord Lloyd Webber has great expectations to fulfill: if it closes after less than a decade, Love Never Dies will be seen as a disappointment. A twenty-three year run (and counting!) is tough to top. But I’m rooting for it, if only so that we have a hope of seeing a sequel to Cats before the end of the decade.

Nobel Peace Surprise

I’m a big Obama fan, but even I never expected him to win the Nobel Peace Prize…

Postal strike

A postal strike. Really? How inconveniently timed — just before my mother-in-law’s birthday.

Overall, I’ve found that the UK mail system is more efficient than the US. A letter sent by first class mail in Britain will reach pretty much anywhere in the country the next day. I’ve mailed letters in New York City to a destination three blocks away that have taken three days.

And pretty much everything I’ve sent by Royal Mail reaches its destination, as opposed to the package of CD’s my mother in law sent to my husband back in April, which have yet to arrive.

Here in Atlanta, we often receive the neighbor’s mail. But then, I have yet to experience an American mail strike. I think the Brits need to take on a motto like their US counterparts: “Neither Rain, Nor Snow, Nor Gloom of Night….”

Or at least the very least, resolve their dispute in time to deliver my mother in law’s birthday sweater.

NBA in London

I hope that the National Basketball Association brings regular season games to London. As exciting as the odd exhibition game is, like Monday’s preseason friendly between the Utah Jazz and the Chicago Bulls, the crowd would be mostly American expats like me.

With the start of games that actually matter to the US season, Brits might actually start to care.

But maybe that’s a stretch. Brits, I’ve found, are purists about their sports. Scantily-clad dancers, jumbotrons and action-appropriate theme songs (i.e. Final Countdown during the last few minutes of an NBA game) wouldn’t go down well there.

At football games in the UK, most stadiums are creaky, the concession stands sell a fraction of what you find in the average US arena, and the sound of the fans singing and shouting obscenities at the opposing team would drown out any stereo system that tried to offer themed music.

So the NBA games would probably be played for the ex-pats. But there are enough ex-pat basketball fans in London to fill the stands. I wish I was one of them.