Friday, October 31, 2008

Panic on the Streets of Birmingham...

Last Monday, I went to the Fat Cat with Tom, Jaimey and Rebecca for cheap curry. Tom left for The Fest last weekend, but before he left he bought me some Budweiser wing sauce as a joke. It's actually delicious and I put it on everything. The new Christian Slater TV show has started, and is now 3 episodes deep. It's about a day delay after they air before I get them over here-- what an amazing show! On Tuesday, I went to an Architecture lecture and took Alice to a Ugandan music event on campus-- I think she really enjoyed seeing some people from home. I made my 2nd trip to the Chinese buffet near campus-- no crab rangoon, but pretty decent for the money. On Thursday, there was a globalisation lecture on campus with a professor from Princeton that was alright. On Saturday, Nonso, Hennock and I went to the Sheffield United game. The weather was shit, but United won and we got in for free. I'm going again in a couple weeks. After the game, Hennock and I went to an Ethiopian restaurant, but couldn't get seated because of an Ethiopian Orthodox Church was having an event. The city set up a festival downtown, which grew over the week into a Halloween street fest. A lot of people were out, but most of the rides and haunted houses were for kids. On Sunday, Alice had us over for Sunday lunch-- one of the better meals I've had since getting to England (save Chinese buffet, of course). On Monday, I took the train to Birmingham to meet up with Troy. We went out to Stratford upon Avon, which is the small town where Bill Shakespeare was born. It's a real classic English town that was cool to wander around for a bit; saw Shakespeare's grave, fed some ducks... you know, typical Monday. Back in Birmingham, we went to the Old Crown-- a pub that was built 640 years ago. Some of the original timbers are still there; incedible. The next day, I checked out Birmingham University and went into the city. There is an Antony Gormley statue in the City Centre-- I used to live with the sculptor's son in Chicago. It started snowing, so I dipped into the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery for a bit before catching my train back to Sheffield. I stopped off and found a cool pub in Derby. Then, Thursday, Duvel had a beer tasting at one of my favorite pubs around campus-- I got to try a few of their new beers, which were all pretty good. Tonight is Halloween, but not much seems to be going on. The HalfDead meet-up is in Austin tonight; wish I was there. Last time we were all together was in 2005. Tomorrow, I'm headed to Manchester.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

This is England

The more I get settled in England, the more I focus on school. However, I'm only in class on Wednesday and Friday, so I have a lot of time to check out the city. The Clash played their first gig ever in Sheffield-- opening for the Sex Pistols. It was at a place called the Boardwalk (formerly the Black Swan) that I stumbled past the other day.
The weather really hasn't been bad, but it is getting colder. Apparently, it will snow, but probably not enough to stick. It really doesn't rain as much as I expected, but I hear it will get worse.
I spend a lot of time with the people on my course-- specifically, Henock and Alice.
I voted last week and sent my ballot back to North Carolina.
I spent last Saturday with Craig and John at the Casbah. Craig met Tracy Ulman and the guy from the Cher movie, The Mask. Corporation has a metal night on Saturday, but it's packed with goth kids-- so I took off early. I found a pretty good frozen pizza here-- not as good as the one's Phil and I used to get at ALDI, but pretty good.
On Wednesday, I grabbed lunch with Hennock-- had my first plate of Bangers & Mash. I also stumbled upon a Big Buck Hunter Pro machine-- who knew they existed in England? On Thursday, I went on a pub crawl with Tom and rode in my first double-decker bus. Then, on Friday, I met John, Ken and Craig out at Trippet's Wine Bar, and took off to The Old House for a pint. We all ended up back at the Casbah, and I helped Ken with his DJ night. Craig and I lost at foosball, but I won (yet another) beer belly contest.
On Saturday, I helped Alice with a few things, before going to the Weston Park Museum with Britt, and we stopped at University Arms for a drink. My German flatmate, Uwe, was having some people over, so our house was clean. I watched part of the ManUnited game at my local pub and then met Tom, Jaimey and Gus at Bungalows & Bears. This is one of my favorite pubs so far in Sheffield. Later, we all went to Corporation.
On Sunday, I had my first Sunday Roast. Craig and I went to the Fat Cat, before heading to The Broomhill Tavern to watch the Sheffield United v. Sheffield Wednesday game-- this is a huge match where the two teams in the city play eachother. Wednesday won.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Getting settled in Sheffield

That weekend, Joe had some friends in from out of town. Phil is a hardcore kid from Manchester who is really into American music. He's offered to host me for a Manchester United game and show me all the Morrissey/Joy Division sites. And, Troy is from California, studying at the University of Birmingham-- it was cool to hang out with an American for a night. We went to a show and had a pretty cool night. That weekend I just relaxed-- school started the following week and we had really nice weather. I spent Sunday in the Botanical Gardens, reading a book. I spent the next week in lectures and finalizing bank details for my grant, etc. On Friday, Ken dj'd a metal night at the Casbah-- I played a half hour's worth of songs. Hopefully, that's something we do regularly. That night, I ended up at a really bad party out by the Sheffield United stadium. And, on Monday, Maps & Atlases were in town. I spent most of the night drinking beers with Erin before they played. Ken came out and the show was great-- I think I'd only seen them once before.

Week 1: A New City

To wrap up our stay at the University, the Mayoress of Sheffield hosted a formal dinner. It was a good way to end the week with a lot of new people. Afterwards, I went in to town to meet up with a couple of guys from the other night at the Casbah. Ken sings in a Guns 'n Roses cover band and sounds exactly like Axl Rose-- he even moves like him when he sings. I'm trying to get him to karaokee One in a Million. His girlfriend bartends at the big metal club in town-- it's a little too young of a crowd for my taste, but around 1am on a Friday it seems like an okay place. And, Craig is a vegetarian hesher from Newcastle-- they make up a pretty good group of people to be out with; plus, they're all around 30, which is a welcomed change from most of the undergrads around campus. On Saturday, I took the bus around town and went for a Nigerian dinner with my Ethiopian friend, Henock. On Sunday, I was around town taking some pictures and ran into two old English guys: Russ and (Fat) Steve. They were in the middle of a pub crawl and had me tag along-- paid for all my pints for the remaining 7 pubs. Real stand up dudes; both really smart and Steve works in Sheffield's famous steel industry and listens to punk. That night, Joe, Craig and I went to the Green Room to see a Belgian hardcore band and a French thrash band-- it was one of the better punk shows I've seen in a while. I split a taxi home with Joe and grabbed a pint at our local pub, the Cobden View Hotel.

Sheffield, England

The train station in Sheffield is really beautiful-- some wicked fountains and a nice plaza. I met a girl from Germany on the train and we split a taxi to the University. So, for the first 5 days, the University had arranged for me to stay in a dorm while I found a place. There were a lot of international students around for the week. It was a great way to meet a lot of people from Nigeria, Germany, Mexico, Holland, Iran, Iman, Uganda, Malta, Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Denmark, China, India and Pakistan. It was a lot of fun, but the program for the week included a lot of "mandatory" lectures or tours that really just got in the way of apartment hunting, obtaining a bank account and getting a cell phone. The first few days were pretty relaxed: I played pool with 2 Nigerian guys and went out to a sculpture garden in the country. The 11 other people in my program are amazing-- all very accomplished and very intelligent. And, as for the food, it's really not all bad. By the middle of the week, I finally started breaking off at night to meet some English locals-- not too hard to do when you're seeing dudes in Blind Guardian shirts, karaokeing Warrant's Cherry Pie. There were a group of 20 year old metal kids at the Nelson; one guy, Joe, happens to live around the corner from me. Later that night, we went over to the Casbah-- a nearby punk/metal club. There's a crust kid that bar backs there-- he always gives me flyers to upcoming shows.

I'm so bored with the USA...

So, on the night of 12 September, I flew to England. I had a direct flight from Chicago to London-- leaving around 9pm and arriving about 10am on Saturday morning. I took an Ambien and crashed on the flight; waking up relatively ready-to-go. A lot of people ask me what you take with you when you move to a new country-- this is what I brought with me. You really question your priorities when stuffing your life into two bags. I had never been to England, so I wasn't exactly sure what they did/did not have. Anyways, I landed at Heathrow and took the Underground to King's Cross to meet up with Adam, aka the Heat. We wandered around Islington-- through some markets, stopped for a drink in Angel and had lunch at a place called the Narrow Boat. We watched a football match at a pub and then met up with Adam's girlfriend and friend for drinks and tapas. I couldn't sleep and walked around St. Pancras in the early morning. The next day was the Mayor's Thames Festival, so the Heat, Nikki and I headed down there. It was a pretty wicked street fest with a lot of food. I don't really like Shakespeare, but for some reason I was really stoked on the Globe. We also were near the Tate Modern, which had a huge Os Gemeos piece on the side of it. Oh, yeah-- I saw Big Ben. Nikki made me my first English tea and then Adam and I took off for drinks in Camden. The next morning, I grabbed a taxi to St. Pancras and caught the MegaTrain to Sheffield. Welcome.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Google Map

Here's a map of everywhere I went this summer:

View Larger Map

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I got to Chicago on 09 September, and took a cab up to Rory and Nicole's. Maggie got in from Richmond earlier that day and we went out to Kuma's Corner-- I had never been there before; wicked burgers. I guess Ross got a new "jacket" since I last saw him-- no one tells me anything anymore. Kriggy, Jo and Annie came out. It had been almost a year since I had been in Chicago-- I didn't know they shut down the Max Gerber showroom-- it was one of the coolest stores in Logan Square. The next day I went to Hot Doug's-- Portuguese Linguica with Smoked Paprika Dijonnaise and Manchego Cheese. I visited some old spots and caught a train down to the White Sox game. I scored a cheap ticket in the tunnel, changing from the Blue to the Red line. White Sox beat the Jays-- Halladay pitched like shit. Later, Damian met up with Rory, Nicole and me at Rainbo-- Doty even showed up. The next morning Nicole and I went up to Victory's Banner for breakfast before my dentist's appointment. Apparently, my wisdom tooth needed to come out immediately-- the day before I flew to England. Bummer. I spent my last night in the States pilled out in Rory's arm chair, eating ooey-gooey gouda mac. The next day, I finished getting my teeth cleaned and walked around Logan Square. I couldn't resist grabbing one last meal before my flight: Harold's Chicken Shack.


After my dad's birthday, I decided I needed a break from Austin. I hadn't gotten to see Jay, Jason or Ben in a couple of years, so I figured I'd go to Dallas. Keely's got a wicked loft with a margarita spot right downstairs. We took Tiny Tim for a walk and grabbed some tacos while waiting on Jay. Jason and Alec came over and we headed for the hot tub on the roof-- Tim came too. Ben showed up, Tim got wasted and Jay fell asleep. Later, we all went out for sushi. The next day, Jay, Keely and I met Cody and Gina for brunch at the Meridian Room. We dropped Jay off and went to the Rangers' game; they were playing the Red Sox. After the game, we ran the bases, and I caught a ride back to Austin with John and his girlfriend. The next night, Kevin, Jacline and Todd and I went to Matt's El Rancho before playing Big Buck Hunter. Afterwards, Jacline drove us to Palazio-- typical last night in town. The next day, I finished packing, got my computer and grabbed lunch with Graham and Vi before flying to Chicago.

Back in Texas

When I went back to Texas, I left my camera in North Carolina-- I got it about 2 weeks later. While in Austin, I basically just bounced back and forth between my parents' house and Graham's. My parents live out in the country now, so it's kind of tough to run back and forth. I basically realized I was totally bored, and sitting in the Texas heat didn't exactly help. I started volunteering at the ARCH, and also got to see a lot of friends and have some fun. Todd, Kevin, Laurelin, John and I went swimming and played bocce ball. My grandma and grandpa came down from St. Joseph, Missouri to visit. Kevin, John and I went to Wings 'n More, probably my favorite wing place, and then up to a Round Rock Express game.
Jacob's been living in Texas for a month and Ryan was coming in town, so Keely and Justin came down from Dallas. Jeremy, Graham and Vi showed up and we all went to a party at Joel's. Justin and I stayed up at Graham, Vi and Mark's-- ate lunch at Hutt's, took a trip to Lake Austin and played dominoes. We went out to some east side bars, saw some old friends and headed to some house parties. It turned into a long night-- Phobia played at the Broke Neck house.
On Labor Day, we swam and went up to the Grand to see Ben play records-- Nic was up there too. Later that week, Graham and I saw the VICE movie, Heavy Metal in Baghdad at the Drafthouse.

North Carolina... again

Again, not a lot of pictures from North Carolina. I spent most of my time in NC riding a Nevil, swimming in apartment pools and reading the NYTimes. There was some good food and I got to see some friends. And, Matt Lee returned from the Tour Divide just in time to have a baby. I saw some minor league baseball in Greensboro and Burlington. I ran the bases in Greensboro and pissed in the same urinals as Thome, Ramirez, Colon and Sabathia once did. But, on August 8, I flew to Austin, TX.

Washington, DC

By this point, I was basically just looking for somewhere to crash. Jimmy said to come meet him down in DC-- he's got a nice place, and I knew I'd have a good time. I got off the Chinatown bus and took the train out to his place in Arlington. We got lost on the way to Five Guys and ended up grabbing some great chili dogs at the Hard Times Cafe. We stopped at the bar for a couple beers and headed back to Jimmy's place to relax-- we had a big day ahead of us. We started off with a flapjack breakfast and washed that down with a brat and Vernor's Ginger Ale. Jeff came by and met us for an early dinner at TGIFridays-- we shared a couple starters and I had the fillet mignon, naturally. We picked up a couple more refreshments and went out for a night on the town-- and a few chicken wings. The next day, we stopped by Jeff's work and watched a Queen DVD, before having a BBQ back at the residence: brat appetizers and a rack of ribs. That night, Jimmy and I hosted an invite only cocktail mixer; James dressed up.

DC: Fun? yes. Relaxing? no.

The next day, Jimmy took me for lunch at a Chinese buffet before I got on a plane back to North Carolina.