I don’t really have all that much to say about life right now. It’s always hard to find that your existence has become dull and mundane without you ever noticing. Exams usually have that effect. I’m behind in my work (as always) and struggling to bring myself to care about the results of this summer program. I know I’ll be upset and disappointed with myself if I do poorly but of course right now I can’t imagine ever really caring about the results. I just want more sleep, a chance to go on really long walks again, or go book shopping. Soon, when I get that week at home, but not here and not yet.
Since at the moment I don’t have a lot going on, go off and read this brilliant essay on poverty by Heather Ryan over at Salon.com instead. It’s heartbreakingly simple and honest. Good stuff.
Dear Final Exams, Final Papers, Intensive Lectures, and Any And All Activity that Falls Under the Heading of ‘School’,
I can’t ever miss you if you never go away.
The one terrible thing I’ve done while I’ve been here is acquire a coffee addiction. I can’t help it, the jet lag fucked with me so bad that the only thing that rescued me was cappuccino, okay? And having coffee after dinner makes me feel like a civilized scholar instead of a crazed student. But there’s nowhere to get coffee here after seven! I think I know one place that stays open until seven thirty but its seven twenty-seven right now and I’ll never make it! Ugh.
The bar at King’s (and for real, British students have bars outside of their cafeteria, it’s ridiculous) does serve coffee. However, they charge the earth for it and they don’t even totally fill the tiny little cup they give you. They push a three-quarters full cup of coffee at you and then ask for three dollars. It’s shameless!
Please note that I understand the correct solution to this problem is to stop buying coffee and just make it like normal people. I defend myself from this accusation by pointing out that electrical appliances of all kinds are banned in my dorm. So there.
Please note that although I’m going to be whining about various aspects of life in Cambridge, I am fully aware that my woes could be avoided by not being so fucking lazy. It’s okay, guys. I’m not oblivious, I just like complaining. Let’s continue.
So. Life in Cambridge. Most of the time it’s pretty great. I go to class and dinner in a beautiful neo-Gothic building; across the lawn is the Chapel which dates to the 1400s. My Bloomsbury professor lives in the apartment that also housed John Maynard Keynes; I’ve got a friend living across the street from Darwin’s old dorm room. I haven’t yet had a drink in the pub where Crick and Watson took drinking breaks into between discovering the structure of DNA and not giving fair credit to Rosalind Franklin (I kid, I kid.) but it’s only a matter of time! And money. I’m basically surrounded by history and freak out approximately every two days to discover yet another plaque commemorating yet another epic moment in history that occurred right next to my grocery store. It’s generally really awesome.
Except on the weekend. Because on the weekend, all the tourists arrive. They walk in the streets or stand (totally immobile!) on the sidewalks. They congregate in huge numbers outside the gatehouse at King’s and make the porters really grumpy and mean. They don’t understand the deal with the grass—
And here I’ll even pause a moment and commiserate. I don’t understand the whole grass thing either. You can’t walk on any of the grass in college. You can’t stand on it, you can’t touch it, you can’t sit on it. If you are a senior fellow of the College (A fellow is a faculty member who is a member of the governing body of the College; what a “senior” fellow is I may never know.) you may walk sedately across the grass. If you are accompanied by a senior fellow of the College you may walk across the grass provided you look suitably awed. I think it’s stupid, fellow plebeians. The grass looks beautiful. But you can’t walk on it. There are signs informing you of this rule. They tell you in six different languages. Unless you only speak Spanish, you’re going to get yelled at. And so while I always cringe to hear yet another person being ordered off the grass, my sympathy is short lived. It’s unfair and makes me want to start a revolution of some sort, but to that guy looking all wide-eyed with your camera and map—don’t act all surprised when you get yelled at. You should have read the sign, dude.
For reals, yo. Don’t touch it.
But yes. Truly tourists are a lower form of life. Like the pigeon and the rat, the tourist gets in my way, does not apologize for inconveniencing and terrorizing me, and appears in such large numbers that I often cringe in fear in my room, afraid to leave and brave the crowds. But I had to today because I missed lunch. Because I was sleeping. I know. I am lazy as fuck but I still get to hate tourists. And now I’m hungry because I ate lunch at a weird hour but dinner is over and I can’t get Indian take away because it’s Sunday night and everything is closed. I blame you, tourists. Surely the good business owners of Cambridge could be convinced to stay open just a little later on Sunday nights if you, stupid tourists, didn’t make us all so damn tired during the day.
And now it’s really time to do a little homework.
So one of my days in Scotland this weekend was spent hiking in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. This was both a fantastic and horrible experience. The Trossachs are breathtakingly gorgeous, they are populated with tiny bugs which ate me alive, and they nearly destroyed my shoes. My arms and chest (oh who knew I’d be punished for wearing a v-neck shirt?) are covered with bug bites and I’m in serious could-drive-a-person-mad amounts of discomfort. I’m constantly scratching my arms and while propriety thankfully prevents me from scratching at my chest it itches nonstop as well. At least a couple times a day I cover myself in lotion in the hopes that I can keep from scratching so much that I give myself scars. So yes. The Trossachs were lovely and when global warming inevitably destroys the planet, I hope they’re the first to go.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: cambridge, growing up, pointless pictures, whining
Plane at seven tonight to London and then in Cambridge by Saturday afternoon. At this particular point in time I can’t imagine anywhere I want to be less than the UK, but that’s the way it goes. It’s been a rough week or so and I haven’t posted anything for fear of sounding exceptionally whiny. I think once I’m actually settled down and unpacked I’ll be able to feel more positive about the whole experience. At the moment I miss everyone too much.
Sadly the people I’m missing already aren’t my family; I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m having to confront that the fact that as much as I love my family (and I do, we’re all pretty close), I may not love them as much as I love my friends. It’s a strange feeling, to realize that you’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon people who suit you so well, who you love more than you can possibly express, and then to feel a little guilty about it. I think maybe it’s an age thing. In another five years I’ll swing back and feel more balanced. But for now it’s painful to think about how long I’m going without the things in life that make me truly happy.
Leaving for a few days then, and I’ll give you a picture to tide you over. About two weeks ago I went to the MET and saw one of the photography exhibits they’ve got on right now. Of all the offensively British pictures in the exhibit, this one takes the cake. A long time ago, my family went to Wales for a few weeks and I spent all my time climbing on ruined cathedrals. They didn’t look like this one; they were more rugged, older and somehow more authentic, but it’s a nice picture anyway.
Rievaulx Abbey, 1854 – Roger Fenton
I tend to think of myself as a pretty smart person. I am not bragging, particularly, and the snobbish tendencies I possess are mostly related to books, movies, music, etc. But when it comes to common sense, to following directions and critical thinking, I like to think I’m ahead of the curve.
So why did I spend the last two days sweating buckets and holding back tears in an effort to assemble a desk and a chest of drawers? I really thought that I had the whole moving thing figured out. I didn’t go to IKEA to buy my stuff, for that place is evil. Everything is so stylish and cute, but that smug feeling of good taste disappears when you attempt to assemble a bunk bed using only pictograms. So I went to good old Target. And yet, I suffered. Frankly, I had faith in Target, but it’s gone now. I loved how nice Target seemed, how simply stylish and yet unpretentious. I even really liked in when Target bought all the ad space in that one issue of The New Yorker and gave it over to cool graphic designers. I didn’t flinch when Target enthusiasts called the store “Tar-zhay.” Well, fuck that. No more!
Now, I look like I’ve been in the wars and I’ve got sore muscles in places I was pretty sure contained only fat, skin, and bones. But my room in Baltimore is set up, damnit. And I’m too tired to write anymore. Sorry for being boring. Tomorrow I’m off to laze about in the park and see Vampire Weekend along with the entire hipster population of the eastern seaboard.
Target, you cruel ungrateful bastard.