Friday, July 31, 2009

London Trip, 1st Day: John Foxx at the Apple Store

I'm finally home from London. I actually got home on Wednesday, but I'm only just starting to feel somewhat normal now. My Wednesday flight home was a catastrophe. First, there was a 2-hour delay at Heathrow. No one would tell us anything, and as it turns out, the delay was because of an overbooked flight. As a result of leaving late, we ran into some really horrific thunderstorms on the East Coast in the Newark, NJ area. We had to touch down for refueling in Albany, NY and Boston, MA. Long story short--we were 9 hours delayed getting home. I figured out with all of my travel that day and the time change, I'd been up and traveling for at least 25 hours. When I picked up my car and drove home, it felt like an out-of-body experience.

The great irony of that experience is that it was my first official Continental Elite flight. The only good thing that came out of my Elite status on that flight was that my luggage was among the first to come off the plane. For that many hours on a plane, I feel like I should be in New Zealand or something.

In any case, I did most of my Internet-checking from my Blackberry while overseas, so I did not blog at all, save the brief Friday entry. However, I have written pages of material for blogging, so expect to see quite a few posts in the next few days.

I arrived in London on the night of the 23rd. I had a spectacular headache for most of the flight, and I'd forgotten to bring my ibuprofen. Fortunately one of the flight attendants had some headache meds, so I survived. Looking down over London at night, I noticed how much the Thames looks like a striped snake, and surrounded everywhere by glittering lights. I also reflected on how I was landing in Essex at Heathrow, and had left from Essex (County, NJ, where Newark Airport is located). I arrived at my hotel around 11:00 pm--it was a rather dingy affair in Bloomsbury, but I got used to it pretty quickly. It reminded me of my living arrangements at the University of Reading, though I definitely had a nicer room at the University. I was right near St. Pancras Church, and enjoyed hearing the bells every hour.

Friday was an exceptional day--a few rain showers, but mostly sunny and cool. I went over to Covent Garden to meet my friend for lunch, and then to head over to the Apple Store on Regent Street to see John Foxx's showing of "The Quiet Man" and "Man Made of Shadows" (sequel to the Quiet Man). These are short films that are a work in progress, based on a novel John has been working on for some 30 years. He may seek to publish the novel in the next year or so. My friend and I were running late, and made it to the show about 5 minutes beforehand.

John has shown the Quiet Man before, but this was the first time I had a chance to see it. I loved it--I like the way that he mixes up ordinary daily routines with the idea of living in a film, or in an imagined world. As I said to Steve Malins later on, I've done that very thing my whole life and never thought that anyone else did it. Coincidentally, the latest book I'm reading is Peter Ackroyd's "London : a Biography". Ackroyd talks about the city--how dark it is, how it frequently overwhelms people, swallows them up. In earlier periods of London's history, it was very violent and savage. In the 21st century, it is not quite so savage, but it is very indifferent. Everyone goes about their business without a care for anyone else's. Reflecting on the Quiet Man, which takes place in London (and is based on other places, but London sites are specifically mentioned), it seems like the main character uses his daily regiment and imaginative forays as a sort of buffer against this dark tide of the city. Certainly it is a means of maintaining control of oneself--daily regiments are a means of providing structure amid uncertainty, and an imaginative retreat into film or anything else is also a world one can control with the mind. Quiet Man is still a work in progress, and I do hope that John does more with it on the film side.

I ended up talking to John for quite some time after the set--he was in an excellent mood that evening. John is always pleasant and kind; still, I don't think I've ever seen him smile that much in a 2-hour period. Among many other things, we talked about London and its myriad of streets and byways that go on forever. John noted that New York City is easy to figure out for the most part--the streets are laid out in a regular pattern, Greenwich Village notwithstanding. London is just a maze of random streets with no real plan; he said it took him 5 years to really figure out the streets of London.Which is fair enough, though you could switch that around when referring to the underground trains of both cities. London's Underground is neatly laid out, there are big maps at every station platform, and the stops are clearly laid out and announced. Whereas New York's Underground is a mess--if you don't know where you're going, you're pretty much screwed. At rush hour, all bets are off with signage, especially with local vs. express trains. Your only hope of knowing whether you're on the right train is to ask people already on the train.

Overall, it was a wonderful day, and I was happy to see Gem, Rob Harris, and Steve Malins as well as the magnificent Mr. Foxx. Rob showed me a few things on the Metamatic website, and we were drooling over the extra-large Mac monitors. Karborn was supposed to be at this show, but there were some problems, as Apple PR didn't want him using a PC to do the video in their store. I later found out from him that it was a huge mess trying to get a loaner, and in the end it was just easier for him to make a DVD of the video and let someone else run it.

Incidentally--John will be showing "The Quiet Man" in Hudson, New York at the BCB Gallery, 116 Warren St., on November 7, and possibly 8. If you're in the States, and in the New York area, I highly recommend coming to see it.

Thus ended a very pleasant Friday. Tomorrow I will write about Saturday...

No comments: