Archive for the ‘Drunken Bunny’ Category
Numbers, or so, listed in bold and underlined.
Everyone has shit to talk about 2016, and so do I; but, I’ll minimise that, here. I finally sprang for two new pair of running shoes to replace the pair, featured in the photos here, that I picked up in Chattanooga in September 2015 and subsequently added 2253 running miles on before retiring them last weekend (with walking, as these were my usual day-to-day shoes, these had much closer to 4000 miles on them).
Over the Christmas break, we watched a shitload of TV and a bunch of really cheery movies (highly recommended of these are the drama Martha Marcy Mae Marlene and the documentary The Coming War With China. To recover from those you might want to find Twenty Feet From Fame. But, we also caught a bunch of shit tele and some old stuff. In keeping with the theme of the year, we downloaded a collection of the Tonight Show (with Johnny Carson) and spent the entirety of each show playing the middle-age white person version of Jew-Not-A-Jew (aka the straight person’s version of Queer-Not-A-Queer) by pointing at each corpse we spotted on screen and saying, “DEAD.” “Bob Hope. DEAD.” “Joan Rivers! DEAD.” “Gary Shandling, DEAD.” (By the way, that’s Not A Jew, Jew, and a little of both).
So, instead of the multitude of other celebrity deaths everyone is banging on about, here are the 17 I noticed but did not eulogise (and some of whom you may have missed):
17 January: Blowfly, 76
2 February: Bob Elliott, 92
16 February: Boutros Boutros-Ghali, 93
6 March: Merle Haggard, 79
3 June: Muhammad Ali, 74
17 June: Fred Tomlinson, 88
22 August: Toots Thielemans, 94
29 August: Gene Wilder, 83
8 September: The Lady Chablis, 59
16 September: Edward Albee, 88
30 September: Hanoi Hannah, 87
18 October: Phil Chess, 95
2 November: Dolores Klosowski, 93, American baseball player (Milwaukee Chicks)
7 November: Leonard Cohen, 82
25 November: Ron Glass, 71
22 December: Miruts Yifter, 72
25 December: George Michael, 53
In a similar vein, here are the other numbers of my year…
Obits actually in the blog: 16
Swindon’s Stagecoach Bus Depot in Old Town
Robert Ford, Madman Mayor of Toronto
Atlanta/Fulton County Stadium and Turner Field in apparent murder-suicide
The jihadi sparrow
The villages of Longford and Harmondsworth
America, the not so great pre-Trump version
New Years Honours of Note: 1 (for the name): Mr Fabulous Flournoy, (MBE)
Mileage (running): 1589.8, quite the slack year — the least in two decades of keeping track
Pub write-ups 1 January thru 30 June: 38
Pub write-ups 1 July thru 31 December (we moved house 28 July): 216 (254 for the year)
Recipes, such as they are, published here: 5
Brunswick Stew and BBQ Sauce
Malted Milk Ball Hot Toddy
Chicken Breasts done as if for Pakoras
International trips: Except for returning from Cork, technically a 2015 trip, 1 (Bremen)
Marathons: 1 (Wales Marathon)
Other races: 0, but a few planned for 2017
Weight (high): 169 lbs (12 stone 1 pound, Winter drinking weight)
Weight (low): 150 (10 stone 10 pounds, at the Marathon)
“When I was an American, I ran as an American, I drank
as an American, I traveled as an American: but when I
became British, I put away those childish things.”
The application for your first adult UK passport is another boondoggle (see ILR saga and Citizenship). Having just been granted citizenship, this should be straightforward but that would be too straightforward.
For instance, Section 4 of the application (required only for your FIRST adult passport) asks for the names, dates of birth, nationality at the time of your birth, and date of wedding of your parents. Seems fair enough; and, if they have British passports you should also supply these details (mine did not and as they are rotting in hell this should be the full extent of the inquiry). But, no. As they were born overseas, I needed also to provide these details for my grandparents even though the application is based on my Certificate of Naturalisation and not on any claim of British Nationality by birth.
Additionally, I had to have the endorsement of someone professional or with other standing in the community that knows me well enough to pick me out of a crowd (or, as is more likely, to avert their eyes if they spot me across a crowded room). I know loads of people with letters after their surnames like DBE/KBE, FRS, PE or CEng, DPhil/PhD but most of the ones I would usually hit up were unavailable in the time I set aside to take this document to the Post Office. I opted for one of the professors I work for at Oxford and all he had to do was sign, date, and write this statement on the back of one of my photographs:
I certify that this is a true likeness of First Middle Lastname
Which he proceeded to do leaving out the word ‘true’ and my middle name. He also failed to date the photo (which I noticed and added myself hoping the other bits would go through). He also needed to fill in some personal details on the form in BLACK ink (which he did in BLUE ink then when I pointed it out he went back over in black). At the Post Office, they rejected the photo for those omissions, and the next one (it is my fault for not checking behind him) for leaving out the word ‘this’ then when I returned with my final copy of the photo done correctly the document checker was concerned that the blue ink might make the passport office reject the application. “But, there’s black ink on top…blue is only bad because it is transparent to the reprographics equipment they use.” I took a clean form, filled in everything myself, and got his signature on that one in the event the manager says that this one shouldn’t go in.
But, that’s only the start. Even though they have seen every pay stub and immigration document I have ever received since the day I applied for the job, have an iris scan, all my fingerprints, and letters of reference from the Chancellor of Cambridge University and a chaired professor at University of Oxford (who is also a Dame Commander of the British Empire) vouching for more than my identity but also my good character — even after all that and granting me citizenship — the passport office required that I come down to an appointment to confirm my identity based on info they have garnered from this application and a related credit check. They had my US Passport, my Certificate of Naturalisation, and access to roughly 5 kg of documents supporting applications for a Work Permit (starting late 2008), a Tier 2 Visa and 2 renewals, Indefinite Leave To Remain, Citizenship, a Patent, Work and Pensions documents, and specific dates for each house I’ve lived in and every trip abroad whether for work or vacation (and letters from University of Oxford and Cambridge University stating that they were aware that I was abroad during each of those periods away).
The interrogation — they call it an interview — was meant to be a relaxed thing and only in place to prevent identity fraud. So, I went in relaxed. My interviewer asked my full name and I gave her those and spelled each of them. I was probably a bit too relaxed from then on. For example:
“What is your occupation?” I started chuckling at that so before I could answer, she asked why.
“I’m a research scientist and engineer but I generally tell strangers I’m a rodeo clown or an underwear model. At best, I just say I work in a lab.”
After a pause, she said, “okay, then,” and briefly consulted her computer screen. “What does your job as research scientist entail?” I resisted, barely, the urge to say, “standing around in my skivvies while photographers and lighting techs work their magic.”
There were odd questions about the house we currently live in and the house we moved from; I tried not to give odd answers but I was already rolling at that point. Then, this came up: “now, I’d like to ask about your family. What can you tell me about your parents?”
“What can’t I tell you about them? My dad died in 2006, mom in 2004 but they were ancient and had never taken care of themselves so they were living in double overtime at that point.”
“They didn’t take care of themselves? Were they workaholics?”
“Ha! ALCOholics, but at least you were half right.”
“Oh, I’m very sorry, we won’t go there, then.”
“Noooo, you brought it up; this is for you.” I couldn’t contain my glee. “Mom was also on a warehouse of prescription meds. She was working dozens of GPs to get ‘scrips. I had a theory that she actually passed away 20 years earlier but the exquisite balance of pharmaceuticals, nicotine, and alcohol gave her the appearance of life or, at least, animation.” Nodding to myself, I added, “that would explain the weird noises she made.”
The Passport Office woman’s mouth was open as she stared, aghast. I clicked my fingers and she shook her head slightly. “Do you have any siblings?”
“Oh, well, there’s my sister but I disowned her and her whole felonious, white-trash brood and if I never see any of them again it will be too soon. What do you want to know about her?”
“That’s enough,” she answered too quickly. “One…sister,” she mumbled to herself as she typed.
A couple of questions later she seemed to have regained composure and asked if I could describe the process I went through such that I was now applying for a British Passport. “Do you mean the whole saga or just the bureaucratic hoops I jumped through?”
Wincing as she nodded and pointing at me with her pen, “yes, just the Immigration process,” then in the brief moment before I could continue, “please,” as though she were asking for mercy.
“Okay, but it’s a better story if I tell you how I decided to abandon America,” I offered.
“No, I’m sure it is, but no.”
“That’s a pity. Right,” and we briefly went through what I remembered of the applications submitted these last nearly 8 years.
At the end, she asked if I had any comments about the interview and I pointed out how I felt it was surreal. She replied, “really, you found this surreal?” so, I responded with a condensed version of the first part of this post about how they already have all this info on me having conferred citizenship just a few weeks ago. “Don’t YOU think that’s all kind of weird?”
“No,” she answered. “I meant to ask how it is YOU found this surreal.”
Her point was valid and I smiled broadly and shrugged. “You do these all day, every half hour?” I asked as I rose to leave.
She smiled and nodded. “But, not usually like this.”
That was just before 9 am Wednesday. My passport arrived just before 10 am Friday.
“Fare thee well, gone away
There’s nothing left to say….”
— Body of an American by the Pogues
The Body — and, of course, the accent — are the only things that are still American as I am now registered to vote in England and awaiting my British passport. It has been arduous at times to get to this day and worth every greyed and shed hair and spent shilling (just look back at the posts on the Britishness exam and the application for Indefinite Leave To Remain to see what I mean). If you want to know about the weird Citizenship Ceremony (at which photography is a strictly controlled franchise so no pictures here), I’ll tell you all about it when next we meet…just remind me.
I received the paperwork inviting me to swear fealty to Her Majesty’s realm precisely 40 years, 1 month, and 21 days after I made this decision in the throes of my very first acid trip. I have a crystalline memory of that day and how it led me to this one.
It was the 4th of July 1976 (not only Independence Day but the Bicentennial!) and I was about 8 hours into the ride on some Felix the Cat blotter, watching dusk encroach over a golf course fairway at Griffin (GA) City Park with the town hospital’s lights becoming noticeable on the hill opposite; the absolute ugliness of my native land, its ghastly inhabitants, and what passes there for culture made all too apparent — too concise and too clear — over the course of the day. I concluded there-and-then that — not only did I want to be, but — I had the wherewithal to become a citizen of another country.
Since that moment, I’ve worked on this considering — and putting a bit of effort into — Canada, Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, and Ireland as potential refuges; but, my new land is the one that made me feel the most welcome or, to be absolutely honest about it, the LEAST unwelcome. And, so it came to pass that, earlier today, I became a Brit.
No longer need the Indefinite Leave To Remain card, so off it goes to the Home Office
Afterwards, we stopped for beverages in the Three Tuns on the way to the Tube. Disappointingly, they have no jukebox — modern ones are connected to the Interwebs offering unlimited possibilities — so my playlist would have to wait until the champagne at the house. What I had in mind was the aforementioned Pogues, Billy Bragg’s “A New England” and some Dylan because, during The Ceremony, Bob’s 1966 audience banter popped into my head: the bit just after the “Judas!” heckle at the Manchester Free Trade Hall. Not the part where he drawls, “I don’t believe you…you’re a liar,” but right after that (and just before he and the Hawks cracked into “Like a Rolling Stone”) when he says to the Band:
This caught my attention, but the truck was a let down
I took Tuesday off work to go for a bit of a run/pub crawl, to eat some local cuisine, and to think about my last day as a foreigner in Britain. By the time this publishes Wednesday morning, the metamorphosis will have begun. When it is official, I’ll post a brief message here (and add a link to it for those that find this article months or years later). In the meantime, I managed to add 6 more pubs to the list as well as another jellied eel and chippy fish to that map all in a little under 7 miles jogging through the hottest September day here in the last 50 years…glorious.
Mile End Park just ahead, left out of Mile End Station
The run was typical: get lost, see unexpected shit, find a place to drink, regroup, repeat. It did sort of arrange itself into segments without any prompting from me, though.
Segment 1, Victoria and Albert:
Hopped off the tube at Mile End Station and headed to Mile End Park to sip a beverage at the Palm Tree which turned out to be closed until much later in the day (see Segments 2 and 3, as this recurred frequently). I bailed on this one and went to the nearby Victoria, asked for and got directions to an eel shop, dined on these Victorian treats in the market, then washed the fishy aftertaste out of my mouth at the Albert.
There’s water under that mat of algae and garbage, but I didn’t fancy a swim to prove it
Segment 2, Literature:
I suffered a bit of misdirection through a park then spotted a couple of promising bars but passed on those to take in the Hemingway, not for the sake of Papa but to try to get the song Hemingway’s Shotgun out of my head (get the version by Eric Taylor if you dare). However, it was closed so I ran on towards the Cat & Mutton (thinking then of the trimmings from sheep’s kidneys Leopold Bloom tosses to his cat in the opening bits of Ulysses); it was also closed…shit. However, whilst wandering aimlessly in this wilderness, I found Edgar’s (named after Edgar Allen Poe, a nice tie in to my new neighbourhood) and while downing a pint there spotted a poster for The Sun Also Rises (and so I was back to The Hemingway).
The Hemingway…you’d think THIS pub would be open early to treat hangovers but NOOOOOOOOOOOO.
More literature appeared later on the run…
…and endless coincidence.
Segment 3, The Late Opening Time Desert:
Already disappointed three times — as many times as I had been successful on this trip — I next ran into a streak of bad bar luck in which every pub was closed (and the same two horse coppers seemed to keep turning up at the next one on):
Segment 4, Film Club:
Emerging from the Closed Pub Desert, I might have called this the Segment With No Name (a little Sergio Leone reference) for the heat and curious townsfolk I encountered. But, my first open bar after the hitless drought was the Hitchcock-themed North By Northwest, then followed up with the Marquess Tavern (a bar that could have been the set of some Jennifer Anniston or Reneé Zellweger offence against cinema. The segment and the day’s run finished, after more seafood, at a pub made out of an actual old cinema (a few doors down from the Joe Meek apartment/recording studio that I ran to a year or so ago — and, I never would have known who HE was except for Telstar: The Joe Meek Story, a movie I highly recommend).
Much improved photo since the previous jog past here
Tuesday, the Swindon Advertiser picked up on the story of the Appendage Liberation Front action against the Beehive last Friday. The paper, in an odd decision, used this blog entry as if it were a reliable source (see middle two columns, above).
Since publication, a new pair of arms has been donated AND the stolen one returned, so now they can set the girl up as if she was Shiva (if they so desired).
For what it’s worth, today we have beaten the Statutes of Limitations on most felonies in the United States: 7 years and a day since we moved to England. Here’s the breakdown of this most recent year (noting that the annual run review already covered the calendar year 2015 so this will be a relatively brief look back at the residence year).
Speaking of residence, we were granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in June. I visited 167 new pubs (plus 10 in the new Irish category) and ran slightly more than 2515 miles (including 86 miles in one go). There were trips to Maastricht, Tennessee & Atlanta, and Ireland (where we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary). There were 22 new Fish and Chips entries to the blog (and 3 kebabs) but not a lot of experimentation in the kitchen (only 6 Recipes added).
Going into year 8 there are no goals, no major plans, and no great expectation of many new pub visits (unless we move house or I do a lot of travelling this year). Maybe I’ll try to write a little better…don’t hold your breath on that one, though.
Looking at annual recaps, past:
At 1 year, 290 pubs and impressions on British running, mostly in Cambridgeshire
2 years saw more maps (2000+ miles that year), travel, and 240 more pubs
3 years ended with 280 pubs and links about another house move
The 4th year ended with 255 more pubs, another house move, and some brilliant racing
Year 5 yielded 134 pubs, some decent travel, and yet another house move
The 6th year entry was very brief, but the anniversary kind of snuck up on me (only 95 pubs)
What is 30? It is the number of tracks on the White Album, to be sure. Thirty pieces of silver? The final episode of The Wire was also called “-30-” but that refers to telegraphy signoffs (which, in turn, was adapted from journalism).
Coincidentally, I studied Journalism at Auburn University from 1979-1982 with breaks working construction (Summers in Atlanta trying in vain to pay for the education) and for a graphic arts apprenticeship at the Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs, California the winter of 1981-82; following an incident in the Autumn of 1982 I did a stint in the Army eventually working out my court-coerced enlistment at the Defense Information School. Back then, a journalist finished written work with this as the final line:
Thirty-five years (and a few weeks) ago, I was an 18-year-old working the news desk at WEGL (the campus radio station) in Auburn when three bells rang on the teletype (yes, we had one of those weird little strip printers umbilically attached to Associated Press). Three bells were reserved for items of extremely high urgency and, as I was extremely high at the time, I retrieved the strip to learn that ‘a spokesman said that Lennon died of gunshot wounds to the head, left arm, and chest” with a finality I wasn’t really used to at the time and punctuated a few lines down with ‘– – –‘ (another, more economical, version of ‘-30-‘ ).
Since then, I have never seen anyone but Ort (an Athens, GA phenomenon) use ‘30‘ to finish an article, but he is from a parallel universe, anyway. The number 30 probably supplanted the original ‘XXX‘ which seems more intuitive and final in a professional sense: a line of X’s to draw a line under the work. Less professionally, it might look like some kisses and it may well be that which prompted the migration from Roman numerals.
Hand coloured shot of the spouse in Piedmont Park, Atlanta, roughly 30 years ago (photo now sits in my office)
Kisses, then, eh? When we met just before our birthdays I was 22 years old, Jackie was 30, and we were massive consumers of LSD such that we can’t be absolutely sure if the wedding-to-follow was on the 1985 or 1986 side of midnight for the New Year’s celebration (obviously, I eschewed the advice “Don’t trust anyone over 30“). Now, it is 30 years on and, if nothing strange has happened since I scheduled this to upload, we should be sitting in a pub in Cork, Ireland, right now a short walk from the E30 trans-Europe highway watching another year pass.
When we started this long, strange trip that New Year’s Eve long ago, most of the scientists I work with, now, were not yet born (neither were Jessica Ennis-Hill, Charlotte Church, Lady Gaga, Megan Fox, the Olsen twins, Lindsay Lohan, Usain Bolt, Florence Welch, nor Oscar Pistorius); MLK day had never been celebrated; the Space Shuttle Challenger was ready for what would be its final fueling at Cape Kennedy; Wiki tells me that ‘the Voyager 2 space probe makes its first encounter with Uranus’ later that year; and, Chernobyl was unknown outside the Soviet Union (which, itself, was still viable). Also still alive were L. Ron Hubbard, Georgia O’Keeffe, James Cagney, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Genet, The Duchess of Windsor (the former Wallis Simpson), Tenzing Norgay, Benny Goodman, Rudy Vallée, Vincente Minnelli, Scatman Crothers, Cary Grant, and Desi Arnaz (none of whom would be available to attend our 1st anniversary, RIP). 30 years…yikes.
We’ve done the anniversaries in Penzance (#25), Paris (#18), the Hague (#17), and all over Atlanta & a variety of locales near Athens, GA; Bermuda (#14, hoping the Y2K bug would strand us there), Savannah (#15), Chicago (#20), Bisbee, Tucson, Bicester, Ely, Oxford, Swindon, moving house (#10, leaving Atlanta to return to Athens to start my Chemistry PhD), Tybee Island (#5, in a winter storm with the island largely abandoned), and London…with no sign of stopping anytime soon.
So, this 30 is not an end, nor even the beginning of an end; at worst, it might be an end of the beginning. Or, like that last line, merely a cliché copied from so many earlier hacks. But, as clichés go, it ain’t bad.