Thursday, September 13, 2007


Going Flat Out...

10 September, 1987

My God! England rises up from the mist below!

We are approaching Gatwick Airport through a curtain of grey rain. Then the curtain parted and a great green field stretched to the horizon.

How wonderful that I can be as drag-ass fucking tired as I am and still enjoy the view.

Have not slept in 36 hours. Feel like I have not had anything to drink in 36 days. My back is killing me, although not from the cramped Pan Am airplane seats, but from the insistent jabbing by the knees of my seatmate, Betty.

Betty is one of my great pals from school. We met in French class and have hung out together ever since. She is one of several photojournalism students attending the program, a distinct honor. Apparently, getting chosen for the London photo program is like getting into the Iowa Creative Writer's Workshop. The London photo program is one of the top in the world, headed by one Bob Gilka, a former photo editor for National Geographic. Betty is head-over-heels about being one of a dozen students picked to go to London, and I can't say as I blame her. Myself, being a journalism major, I didn't have to go through a grueling entry process. The school offers several journalism courses that are open to pretty much anyone. How special am I?

Folks are stirring to life here in the ass end of the plane, and a last few cigarettes are being hastily lit up (coff coff). If we're going to crash, it'll likely be now, over the water, before I actually get to be over British soil. Morbid thought, I know, but I blame my mother. Ever since I was a kid, she was quick to predict our deaths in car or plane crashes--when she drove us to school, she used to drill me and my brother in exactly what to do if we ever slid off an embankment, or got rolled over, or if the car caught on fire. Made for lively drives to school, I can tell you. Later, when we started flying, she went through the same thing. She was like a one-woman emergency broadcast system. She did her job well, though, because now here I am, noting where the emergency exits are, seeing where the fire extinguishers might be, giving an experimental yank on my seat cushion to see if I really can pull it free, should I need to use it as a flotation device (it seems really stuck).

We're on final approach. Better stow this. I'll let you know whether we crash or not.


Well, we didn’t crash. Although I feel like I could.

We spent an awful long time in Customs, pushing our luggage around on giant trolleys that look like nothing so much as industrial shopping carts. Betty had to answer a lot of questions about her photo equipment, but I sailed through without a problem. I was surprised, because I have some gear of my own--specifically an RCA camcorder. It's an older VHS model, which I bought second-hand from the guy who runs the video rental store in our town. These jobbies retail for over a thousand big ones, but I got this one for $500, nearly all the money I'd saved for the summer. Extravagant? Maybe. But I'm still not sure if I want to be a print journalist or a broadcast journalist and I thought it would be great to have the camera with me on my travels. I even got a really nice bag for it, with plenty of room for my battery pack and extra VHS tapes. Yeah, it IS a big large--the whole kit weighs out at around 25 pounds--but it'll keep me fit, that's for sure.

On the way through Customs, I bumped into Veronica, my best college buddy. I've known her since before college, actually, when we first competed in a scholarship contest, but we became fast friends from the first day of classes onward.

As soon as she saw Veronica, Betty grunted that she would see me outside in the terminal and took off to go see her fellow photo students. To say she and Veronica don't care for each other would be gross understatement, like saying those Nazi chaps were deucedly unfond of the Jews.
Veronica and I chatted briefly--she had to get her bag and meet a friend out in the terminal--but as soon as we get settled in the city we're going to sit down with a map and a newspaper and start looking for flats together. Yeah, that's right: we're staying in a dormitory for the first week--a place called King's College, in Kensington, wherever that is--but after that we're on our own. The school figures looking for a flat will familiarize us with the city and breed in us a heightened sense of independence. All I know is I'm totally stressed about not having a place to live, and only having a week to find a place before I'm booted out on my ass.

Anyway, Veronica asked me if I wanted to be roommates with her. Would I? Yes, yes I would. So we're going to begin our search tonight, as soon as we get squared away at King's College.

Which is where I am now. I just spent a few minutes looking at the notice board at the front desk--already the school has helpfully posted some notices of bed-sits and flats to let. But my! All of the two-bedroom places seem awfully expensive. On my budget I can't afford more than 55 pounds a week for a place--Veronica's in the same boat too--but from the few listings I saw, rates for two-bedroom places are more like 60 or 70 quid. What to do?

While I was pondering this, I bumped into Betty, who was exploring the grounds of Kings College and looking for the laundry room. She too had noted the high cost of one- and two-bedroom places. When I mentioned my "roommate" and I were likewise appalled, she brightened and said, "Well, hey, what if we all go in on a place together? There were plenty of three-bedroom places that were much more affordable on the bulletin board."

"Sure!" I exclaimed. But at the same time, a little voice inside me was saying, in the softest, squeakiest little teensy voice:


Because, see, I hadn't told Betty that Veronica was my roommate. And I hadn't bothered to check with Veronica first. Which I really should do because Veronica totally reciprocates every negative feeling Betty has for her. But...well, maybe it'll all be okay. I mean, it's only for a few months. And I have to admit, I personally wouldn't mind sharing an apartment with two fine ladies such as these. In fact, it's pretty much a win-win situation for me, especially if things go my way.

I must be jet-lagged. What am I saying? Things like that never go my way.


Okay, back at my room. Hiding back at my room, really. The three of us met about 30 minutes ago and the looks on the girls' faces made it pretty clear that this whole living-together thing is going to put the "ass" in "disaster" (hmm, that works better when you say it than when you write it down). When Betty met our third roommate she looked like she'd just swallowed the contents of the lint tray of a dryer. Veronica hid her distaste only a little better, her only betrayal of emotion being the way she started crushing the can of Diet Coke she always carries with her. I'm trying to be Captain Optimist here, but something tells me I'll be better off the less I say. Still, what options do we have? Everyone else seems to have paired up with assorted roommates and we need a three-bedroom flat. None of us can do without the other.

Hmm. Someone's at the door.


Well, that was Veronica. She came by to tell me that I'm an asshole. So that's nice. She's pissed because I invited Betty to room with us without running it by her (not strictly true. Betty sort of invited herself, but again, we DO need a third person) and she's tempted to just drop us both and go room with some of her other friends.

And here's the best part. Total proof that my life is the worst kind of sit-com: While Veronica is covering me with invective and Diet Coke-laced spittle, there's another knock at the door and it's Betty. She looks furious--and furious at me in particular--but stops short of calling me an asshole in front of Veronica. Instead, she announces that she's going to find a place of her own, since it's "obvious" to her that Veronica and I want to room together.

But Veronica says no, oh no, no, no, no, she'll go find her other friends and Betty and I can be on our own. And for a few minutes there it's kind of a pissing contest about who is going to be the rental martyr and go off on their own (and really, I would LOVE the job right now). And then weirdly, the girls decide at the same time that we're going to try living together after all. We start looking tomorrow. They both just left together. Glaring at me!

My first thought: What the hell did I do?

My second: Guess there's no way I'm getting a threesome out of this, huh?

And I've been in London for 12 hours, walked down to Kensington high street, strolled through a park or two, managed a little window shopping and even bought my Tube pass for the London Underground, but do you think I managed to include one word of description in this entry?

Of course not.

Maybe tomorrow, once we've found a place to live. I'm so tired I could fall asleep right n


"My first thought: What the hell did I do?"

Oh, come on. Really? You're lucky nothing worse happened to you. Although I suppose it's possible it did, and we'll find out in a later entry...
I kept waiting for some sort of Jughead reference, Archie.
Here we go
What, no European threesome? Man, I feel cheated.
Ooooooh, I used to have the same fantasy about Betty and Veronica :-)
I let my son go over the great pond when he was 16 with his honors class. I about fretted and worried myself to damn death. He, on the other hand, had a great time and wants to go back. He feels that he was too young to truly appreciate it~ I hope he takes me the next time :)
I hate it when a good threesome possibility dies. As if I've ever even had that possibility! ; 0
Yeah, I'm thinking you were more than a bit screwed at times in that situation, though not the way a college junior hopes. Looking forward to hearing more about it.
I thought that threesomes in Europe (especially amongst the student crowd) were just sort of a given? Granted, I've never been... but come on now. Don't rain on my parade! ;)

Already loving this feature, MM - can't wait for the next installment!
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