Ladies and gentlemen, the first P&C Travelblog post is here! It's taken a while, with the jet lag and all but I'm happy to say that its been 6 days since I've arrived in the UK and I'm really digging every little bit. I'm keeping a photolog through Instagram (@marniki) and hope to be frequently posting my thoughts and ruminations on the things I experience while I'm here. For those of you who are new to the Marnie-UK-Takeover, a few months ago I had the great fortune of an invitation to visit a dear uncle in London. He always suggested it when we spoke on the phone: "Marina, come to London! Spend some time here! What are you doing out in Sacramento??" This time it was different, perhaps since my dear auntie – his wife – unexpectedly passed away from a sudden heart attack last summer. I playfully suggested that I could visit and keep him company or look after their cat Poppi while he took some time off to travel. In total honesty, I was dying for such an experience, and didn't even consider it was possible. Until suddenly it seemed that maybe it was… Uncle told me I was more than welcome and that the unexpected empty space in his flat would be happily filled. After sensing what I like to refer to as the beginning of a series of fortuitous cosmic alignments, I thought to myself that this might just work. So after some careful consideration, in December I decided to take a leap and ask my boss for a 3 month leave of absence (in this economy, right?). A few days later I was surprised to learn that my supervisors were totally supportive of this idea and agreed to keep my job for me until I came back (I know; LUCKY.) That was it; I was gonna go. So in February I had a garage sale, sold a buncha shiz, put the rest in storage, moved out of my apartment on March 3rd and made it to England last Wednesday! Since last Wednesday, it's been a mishmash of jet-lagged exhaustion spells, mini-jaunts to the city and rides on the tube.
Also, my dad was to join me. At least for a month. Its his brother who's in London after all and pops was ready for an adventure too. So we started our adventure at the Sacramento Amtrak station on Tuesday March 5th (Stefka's birthday, SHOUT OUT!!). We were headed for Richmond, where we'd get off and transfer onto the BART towards SFO. All was going well, I was extremely tired having spent the last 2 weeks straight packing and moving out of my apartment on zero sleep, but I was excited and ready for this final push. Stefki and bruder Alexi got me some really cool California socks as an early bday present the night before and I made a point of wearing them for the journey (holla!). Halfway towards Richmond dad starts checking through his messenger bag and pulls out – to my complete shock and horror – A RAMBO KNIFE. My exact blurted out words were: "YOUVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME DAD…" and his face basically said "er… WHOOPS! How did that get in there!?" Great. We're about to enter a busy airport and we've got a bona fide WEAPON on our person. As you all know this isn't the best time to brandishing knives in airports so we knew we had to get rid of it somehow.
"How much was that knife dad? Are you ok with us getting rid of it..?"
"Oh yeah Mouska. It was only $4."
Great. A cheap-ass $4 knife will now get us on the no-fly list. Sigh. Ok, so what do we do? Dad suggested giving it to someone at the Richmond Bart station. HAHA. Yeah… no. I thought about throwing it away but then my heavy conscience foretold the news headlines of a psycho on a killing spree with a $4 Rambo knife he found in the Bart station garbage can. Couldn't do that. After sooo many frantic calls to Alexi and dear friend Lisey for advice, we thought the best thing to do would be to take it to the airport and bring it to the attention of the ticket desk and explain the HILARIOUS mistake. Dad and I nervously pondered whether taking out a knife, even with full explanation, would still get us arrested or whisked away to the 'interrogation room' so I quickly called the SFO main line to get some assurance this wouldn't happen. I spoke with an agent who said this sorta thing happens rather frequently and it wouldn't be a big deal. In fact we could just check it into our luggage and that'd make this whole problem disappear. Awesome! Well, until I found out from British Airways that though carrying a knife in the USA is perfectly legal, anything with a 3inch blade or longer in the UK is completely against the law. UGH. So we decided to just give it up at the ticket counter, let them deal with its disposal. Until we spotted a post office in the airport and found our salvation. We'll mail it back home! Outta sight, outta mind! I casually sauntered up to the cashier and asked him if we might be able to send something back home that wasn't allowed on the plane. The cashier was a sassy older gentleman who didnt look at me while he spoke, busy shuffling through boxes and taking other peoples orders.
"I need to see what it is first."
Ugh. I thought once he saw the knife he might actually report us so I was reluctant to take it out of my bag.
"Look, I can just tell you what it is.." I said in a whispered voice.
"I need to see it."
"Well, see, its a hunting knife."
"Put it on the desk. Now. I need to see it right now."
Gulp. I felt we were really done for. He probably already had his finger on the TSA panic button. So in front of a bunch of waiting customers I pulled out a 12inch insanity-knife and laid it on the counter. The cashier took a quick look at it, grabbed it and walked away with it. Dad and I looked at each other with total apprehension. A second later he returned with a Priority Mailing box, put the knife inside and cheerily said:
"That'll be $20 please!"
"So thats it??"
"That's it! Here, fill this out and we'll mail it out today."
Dad and I hi-fived each other and I happily put my brother's name on the address form (sorry Alexi…) gave him the money and we were on our way. We were so happy, so relieved! But wait, there's more. So, remember when I said I was frantically calling my bro and friend Lisey from the train? Well, Lisey was just on the phone with me right before we spotted the post office. She was telling me that she had a good plan for us and the knife. I was just about to ask her what it was when I spotted the post office and said I'd call her back. But then I got distracted with the search for the ticket counter. Once we got there, I saw a mysterious yet familiar silhouette approaching me straight ahead. It was like something out of Casablanca; a young lady in a chic chapeau, long skirt, boots and red lips. My sleep-deprived haze only added to this disorienting moment. Who is that..? And why is she walking straight towards me??? In her left hand is a document of some kind and as she approaches me, she hands me the document and reaches out her right palm and says calmly:
"And now you can give me the knife."
Suddenly a shock of coherence hits my brain and I realize, ITS LISEY! Wtf?! How?! What..!? I was completely flabbergasted and there's dad behind me, laughing. "Wheres the knife? I'm here to take it away!" and we start laughing and hugging and making a fabulous scene in front of the BA ticket counter. Turns out Lisey had planned for quite some time to meet me at the airport for a special sendoff and didn't want to give away the surprise when I was frantically asking her for advice about the knife. Alexi was in on it too and he also couldn't tell me "well the easiest thing to do would be to give it to your buddy who'll be waiting for you at the airport!" But it all worked out and what a treat it was to have a dear friend give a personal farewell right before your journey. Dad treated us all to a grand airport sushi feast where he told us stories of his teenage years traveling in Spain as a young art student, experiencing the bullfights for the first time (Hemingway anyone..?). We ate, hugged and laughed some more. The document Lisey handed me moments before was a lovely card and a special talisman for my travels. We parted ways at the security checkpoint and soon after, boarded our plane. 10 hours and a few baby-whiskeys later, we made it to London where Uncle picked us up and took us to my new home for 3 months, Emmott Close in Hampstead Garden Suburb.
A few days later I ventured out for some initial sightseeing (see photo titles for more info!). On Wednesday I met a cool new contact who runs her own direct-to-fan music management firm and she's kind enough to show me a few things while I'm here! After our meeting I picked a direction and just started walking, hilariously running into Trafalgar Square, St. Martin In The Fields and Big Ben. Thursday I ventured to the Golders Green Columbarium where I was pleasantly surprised to find the final resting places of Keith Moon (!!) and Marc Bolan. Sigmund Freud and Peter Sellers are also there but I didnt have time to find them. Will definitely go back. Later that night I was super stoked to meet up with dear friend Sharon's brother and his girlfriend who are currently working in London. We met in Chalk Farm for some tasty beers and then we all ran back to the tube station before the last train departed close to midnight. Once I made it to my home station (Golders Green) I knew I only had minutes to board the minibus back to my flat so I ran straight for the bus stop. I also had just had 2 beers and suddenly had to pee like a f'ing racehorse but at midnight, nothing around was open so I had no choice but to hold it. Thus began the most painful 20 minutes of having to pee in my life. I boarded the bus and stood up front in a most peculiar 60 degree angle that somehow made the urgency slightly more bearable. I seriously considered getting off halfway and peeing in a rich person's shrubbery (big stately homes around my uncle's neighborhood) but I figured they'd all have cameras and getting caught doing that would be really embarrassing so I just started rocking back and forth and muttering expletives to myself (<— how to get a boyfriend). A few minutes later I got to my stop and feared that I might just collapse in a heap on the wrong side of the street and get run over by a garbage truck. But I limped home and headed straight for the loo and all was right in the world once more. Hi! TMI? Yeah, prolly but it was an experience and thats what blogs are all about right?
So today I got myself a proper London haircut which was a fabulous experience in a really cute salon that couldn't have turned out to be more London-y (American friends, you know what I mean). And there you have it. We're all caught up. Its 1:26 am and time for me to turn in. I'll post more frequently so I don't have to write mini-novels about my adventures. And I hope I have many more adventures to come! (I also hope to use the loo before exiting a pub; lesson learned!)
PS: also, I'm really into Michael Caine right now. There was a mini exhibit on his life at the Museum of London that reminded me of how much I dig him. I could really use a viewing of The Ipcress Files right about now… who's coming over?! 😉