England

Bristol

Hugo’s friends from the year he worked here feel like fast friends to me. After all the French modesty, I’m happy to meet a girl with pink hair and a guy wearing Minnie Mouse ears in earnest. People who know Wondershowzen and listen to Hot Chip and have no money. A small gathering develops at the apartment. We order a pizza and drink cheap wine from the corner store.

I helped decorate eggs as an awkward birthday present for someone I would never meet.

It’s so nice to be in England. Everyone calls you darling or love, the weather is crisp and cool in August, the buildings are gilded with history, and curls of spray paint whisper against the alleyways and into the night, “Fuck cops, fuck cops…”

Devon

The English countryside is incredibly gorgeous. There are goats on the hills. There are goats in the pie. The streets are only wide enough for one car, and the damp greenery is in the process of eating them. We sneak into something referred to simply as “the show.” Crouching in the back of a truck saves us 15 pounds we didn’t have. This show turns out to be little more than some horses walking in circles and locals in Hunter boots milling around booths of jam and whatever. Every variety of fancy dog is represented. I talk to a stone cutter and resist asking if anyone takes him for granite.

Despite weather that only gets darker and windier through the afternoon, we make the trek up to Tintagel Castle, which has disintegrated so much that the castle isn’t really the point. The point is to get into some Mordor-type shit by climbing countless steep, slippery stairs to the top of the cliff. The reward is an amazing view of the sea, unobscured and blurring into the horizon. The view is called “the end of the world.”

  

Tintagel Castle: It blew me away.

Example of the wind factor: This hairstyle started out as a sleek topknot.

The evening passes slowly with tea and beer and cider, hellos and goodbyes. People’s homes and pubs that are like homes. My evaluation of British people is that they’re all hilarious and kind. Can I move here?

 Bath

The Roman baths aren’t as grand as I had perhaps hoped. The stone is crumbled to stumps and the water is an off-putting green. All the tourists bump into each other in the dim and dampness, clutching at audio guides. Still, some of the Roman sculptures are neat, and I’m particularly amused by the curses (requests for the gods to punish enemies, passionately engraved in metal and thrown into the public pool…)

Then I’m in a French restaurant in England, trying to figure out why I want to stay in my country. I love it, I miss it already, but here’s the truth: America eats its children.

The news and the conversations I’ve been having suggest that times are hard everywhere. Aquaintences who’d recently been to Spain and Greece attest that there are far worse places to be. But are there better ones?

Seems that no matter where you go, there will be posters for Batman and radios playing Usher, McDonalds and Starbucks, blah blah blah. You can live in America, or you can live in syndicated America.

When I later explain the types of and paths to higher education in the U.S.  to Clément and Sylvia (both engineers), talking though it gets me seething. In France, college is free. Choosing to go to a special private school sets you back less than a Texas community college.

My generation is like a bunch of pilgrims who spent our life savings (and our parents’) on boat tickets to a new country. We sailed through universities. When we arrive with our sea legs and sunken hearts, there’s nothing left. No easy answers, no El Dorado, just enough intelligence to be indignant about it.

Everyone’s overeducated for his underemployment. Everyone is in debt. But this is the state of the whole developed world, more or less. As years pass, the world gets smaller and smaller. I’m hungry and I’m looking around. What can I pillage? Where is there to run to?

Bristol, Again

Back at the apartment, three types of homemade curry are laid on the table (carpenters of the group muse over what sort of wood it’s made of) to gather around, lining our stomachs for the night ahead. We carefully tape on used staff wristbands for the See No Evil party.

Bristol knows how to have a weekend. Lines are cut, pills are tossed like party favors. On the sidewalk, people are selling balloons full of laughing gas for £1. A pub called the Pipe and Slippers is full to the brim. The girls wear big hoop earrings, voluminous hair, leggings, and sneakers. Somehow they make it look better than it sounds. I kind of wish I spent my teenage years here, Skins style.

Drunk portraiture

Walking through the streets, I finally get my humble wish of spotting a Banksy. A certain nook of the city is filled with great street art and a lot of spray painters at work. It all feels permissive enough to kill the spirit of graffiti, but it makes sense later.

A long line looks stagnant outside the rave (yes, “rave”). We bypass it with the staff wristbands and go merrily on our way to the bar.

I generally prefer music events where there are guitars and guitarists, where I can participate by tapping my heel on beat looking cool and bored. But sometimes one must hit a dance floor.

I dance around to mediocre electro, uninhibited. I’m in another country. Tomorrow morning, I’m getting on a plane. And these people are apparently on ketamine.

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