Archive | July, 2015

What do watermelons and guidebooks have in common?

30 Jul

Friends, I think something might be wrong with me. Today I walked to Oxford Street to go shopping (24,000 Fitbit steps and counting today!), as is tradition before I go on holiday. There’s just something about wearing new clothes in a new place. I was gone for five hours (5!) and I came home with a pair of off-brand Chucks (shoes), some socks, and a watermelon. (And a finger that is still somewhat numb from lugging said watermelon over a mile in a cheap Tesco bag). I went into so many stores. I tried on so many things. And yet nothing seemed worth buying. It either didn’t fit right or I realized I have at least three shirts that are too similar. That, and I think I’m getting too old for many stores. Why must all the shirts be crop tops? Why does everything scream “drunken hot mess at an outdoor music festival”? Why do the jeans have so many holes in them? When I was in high school one of my classmates told me my style of dress was “career mom.” I took it as a complement, though I’m sure she meant it as a diss. I like to think I dress better now than I did back then, but I can’t shake the career mom vibe entirely, despite the fact that I work from home in pajamas most days and have no intention of becoming anything other than a dog mama. In short, I have a closet — closets — full of clothing I barely get to wear that will happily journey with me to Portugal and Belgium next week, along with my new blue cheapo Chucks.

Rick steves ebooksThat’s right, next week we begin our August holiday, which in typical Renee and Stephen fashion is to two countries that are not geographically close and have absolutely nothing to do with each other other than the fact that they’re both places we want to visit. For some reason we procrastinated and struggled to decide on a destination this year (#firstworldproblems, I know). There are so many places to go and see, but it also turns out a lot of the world is hell’s-waiting-room hot and muggy in August, so we had to narrow our choices. I’ve been reading and writing about Lisbon a bit for one of my jobs and we’ve never been to Portugal, and Stephen’s never been to Belgium. I went with my parents to Brussels and Bruges two years ago, but I told him I would happily return to the land of chocolate, waffles, frites and lambic (aka fruit beer that actually tastes like fruit and not beer. Take note, Bud Light Lime!). I’m still working on a tentative itinerary with the help of my homeboy, Rick Steves. Is there anything that screams “American in Europe” more than toting around a Rick Steves book? Maybe wearing an NFL jersey with white socks and trainers, but I tote my Rick Steves with pride. Frommers and Lonely Planet just don’t compare. This time I’ll just be toting my Rick a little more discretely on my iPad, but not because I’m not proud to be an American, but because guide books are freaking heavy (and my finger may never heal from lugging that watermelon).

“You’re lucky you got air conditioning in here like mother nature intended!”

1 Jul

We need an “Eat your food, there are starving children in Africa” equivalent for people who complain about air conditioning being too cold. It is 95 degrees (35C) in London today and most places do not have AC — there is no such thing as air conditioning that it is too cold in this heat!

I guess it’s a sign that things are going pretty well in my life when my biggest worry is the weather. Though “worry” is probably an understatement, because I have obsessed about today for a week. I opened the weather app on my phone multiple times a day, praying that somehow that gleaming “Wednesday: 95” would change. And actually one time it did, but I quickly realized I had swiped to Florence, KY’s weather by accident (which for once is actually better than London’s in the summer). How I was going to handle 95 degrees without air conditioning was all I could think about.

I decided to get a matinee day seat for Death of a Salesman (after I confirmed the theatre had air conditioning, of course). It was already hot at 9 a.m. when I arrived, the first one in the queue. Several others quickly followed, and it seemed like it was going to be a typical, antisocial wait. And then this older guy from California arrived. He immediately started joking around and blabbering in a stereotypical American fashion, but he got absolutely no response. It was almost embarrassing to watch. The first man he tried to engage in conversation was actually talking on his phone, and then he asked the woman behind me if she was an educator. “No.” she said, only briefly looking up from her kindle, and that was that. Thankfully a young Scottish girl arrived and kept him entertained, and I briefly chimed in when he asked if anyone had seen Elephant Man. Just as the box office was about the open, the woman next to me got up and tried to take a photo of the marquee. She stepped backwards onto the street just as a truck was backing up, and came within inches of being hit. Everyone was screaming at her and freaking out, and she just calmly stepped onto the sidewalk like nothing happened. It was bizarre. The book she was reading was in Italian, but she had to understand some English if she was queuing to see a play. The truck driver got out and started shouting, but she ignored him. Never a dull moment in the day seat queue.

I got my front row ticket, but wasn’t sure what to do next. I usually go to the library to work, but I’m pretty sure it’s not air-conditioned, and is filled with enough hobo funk on a cool day. I ended up at a museum cafe, and it was gloriously air-conditioned and quiet. I got a lot of work done and then went to get lunch. Maybe it was my productivity, maybe it was the time spent in the AC, but when I got outside I actually thought, “This isn’t too bad!” I was silly to obsess over the weather so much. I ate lunch in the park and was not a miserable hot sack of crabbiness like I anticipated.

The play was magnificent and the acting was phenomenal. You just can’t beat front row seats (and air conditioning). Crazy California guy actually put on a jacket because he was too cold (for the record: it was most definitely not too cold).

And then I had to go outside again. The humidity and heat hit me like a Florida brick of misery. 95 degrees is butt hot. The sun was blaring, there were school groups and tourists everywhere, and I could feel the hanger brewing (no, not hungry-anger, hot-anger).

angry cartmanI had an important decision to make: how was I going to get home in the heat? Both the Tube and bus would be like a sauna, but I didn’t want to walk 3 miles in the heat. I ended up choosing the Tube since it would be quickest. Even though I work from home with only a fan to keep me cool, I am so glad I do not have to commute in the summer.

To make a long post short (TL;DR): summer is the worst, and air conditioning and day seats are the best.