Report From London

London is big city in the southeast of the United Kingdom. It is the capital of the UK. The UK is a member of the European Union, which is a collection of various unhappy European countries mocked and tortured by France and Germany’s shadowy diplomacy. The aim of the EU is to create a significant counterbalance to the economic power of the United States. So far they have created a cute new currency that at least a few of them agree on. And they have a blue flag with a circle of stars. Aside from that, it’s as organized as any collection of countries with independent, incompatible, secret agendas can be. The EU headquarters are located in Brussels, Belgium – one of the blandest cities in the world. Belgians are intolerably boring but they speak more languages than the average American so they are probably smarter.
London is a big city like New York is. However, London is much older and dirtier and therefore has much more history and plague than New York. While New York’s history is pretty much limited to the Indians and the Dutch owning it for a while, London’s is far more interesting. They have Roman ruins for starters. And they had lots of heads being lobbed off for various offenses, like spitting on the sidewalk or buggering the Queen’s brother.
The indigenous people talk like the cast of Monty Python, except for the American guy who was on the show. Although many Londoners’ accents may sound the same to an average American tourist, their accents actually identify whether the speaker grew up amidst sewage or is related to a Lord. By someone’s first ‘Hello!’ you will have immediately formed an opinion on whether or not the conversation will continue.
London does not feel as safe as New York in that there are more stabbings and ass-kickings. In addition, every English male is required to break at least one window a year. This was very evident on New Year’s Day when it seems the lads brought in 2004 by cheering, kissing girls in the area, and punching a window.
London today is kind of like New York under Ed Koch or, God forbid, David Dinkins: sometimes gritty, dirty, rough-and-tumble. The citizens are still awaiting their Giuliani to come and clean up the city and get Disney in there. During my trip a survivalist-loser type shot and killed a cop. There was a rumor that the killer was Canadian, which made me very happy. Later it turned out he was American, which made me very sad. They caught him but everyone was kind of freaked out for a day to have a lunatic American running about the subway system. Many cops in London do not carry guns and instead are armed with rolling pins and incredible self-confidence about their ability to roll an armed assailant into submission.
The most interesting thing I learned on this last trip was that the expression ‘one for the road’ comes from the fact that criminals (sidewalk spitters and Queen’s-brother-buggerers) on the way to the gallows from Newgate Prison would be allowed a last pint of beer at a pub to boost their morale and make them all Tally Ho! about being hung. The guards would not be drinking and instead would stand ‘on the wagon.’ This is either very interesting history or 100% horse dung disseminated via the tour guide on the overpriced, open-top double-decker tour bus.
London’s subway is called the ‘Tube’ while New York’s is called the ‘Subway.’ The English folks I know there don’t use the ‘Tube’ much, for fear of some ‘Arabs’ who they feel are ‘fucking insane’ and may try to ‘kill’ people on the ‘Tube’ for the chance to attend an ‘orgy’ in their twisted version of ‘Heaven.’
London has a beautiful pub culture. They take pride in their bars which are warm, comfortable establishments where one can enjoy a lovely, tepid pint of beer and a chat. You can also have a ‘fag’ which in London is a cigarette. The word has a totally different connotation in New York, usually meaning a gentleman who reinforces a stereotype by putting on an outrageous accent and getting disowned by his family.
The best way to remember it is this way: In London pubs you can have an English ‘fag’ and an American ‘fag.’ In New York pubs you can have an American ‘fag’ but not an English ‘fag’ unless you’re talking about an English gentleman who reinforces a stereotype by putting on an outrageous accent and getting disowned by his family. In that case it’s okay. The reason you can’t have English ‘fags’ in a New York pub is because our Mayor hates them – though he has a soft spot for American ones and gives them private high schools at taxpayer expense.
If there is music in a London pub it tends to be at a very low volume so as to facilitate a conversation. This is unlike pubs in America where the bartender sets his techno mix tape to volume 11 and you’re forced to shout over choruses of Yeah! Dance! Freedom! Party! The fact that Londoners have enjoyed pub conversation since the age of 18 or so rather than shouting over trite lyrics explains why conversations in London tend to be witty and interesting, while many New York conversations are as deep and rewarding as Yeah! Dance! Freedom! Party! allows.
English pubs are extremely enjoyable until 11pm when they close. This age-old early closing results in a lot of last minute binge-drinking before the pub closes. At 10:45p a bell rings advising you that you have only 15 minutes to binge-drink. At 11p, a bartender uses 800-year old clich’s to ask you to quit the premises. You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here, people and Get the fuck out, please are good examples.
New Year’s can be enjoyable, though not if two ladies in your party are drugged with Rohypnol. If that happens, their New Year’s Eve will end prematurely when they become paralyzed and incoherent. I’d like to meet any guy who would spike a girl’s drink so he could explain to me the merits of drugging people he doesn’t know whilst I discussed the finer points of inserting finer points in him.
For those lucky not to be secretly drugged, it is customary to await the New Year until you notice half of the pub ‘ the half with a TV ‘ celebrating something. At about 12:03 you’ll realize that they are celebrating the New Year. To generalize: bartenders in London may not inform you of important things, like New Year’s, as they are busy serving drinks and remembering the 800-year old clich’s they plan on using when they ask you to leave the bar.
Musically, there are many differences and similarities to the New York scene. However there will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever be a #1 hit called Touch My Bum in New York, or the United States for that matter. Ever.
London has great taxi cabs, better than New York taxi cabs for numerous reasons. For starters, their drivers are educated and speak the same language as their customers. They also know the streets by heart, the result of something called ‘training’ which has yet to be imported into the United States. The cabs have plenty of leg room and can easily accommodate five passengers. The worst part of the taxi experience is the fare meter, which shows you how weak the US dollar really is.
London lacks a few things New York has – such as an overly-regulatory, bureaucratic entity to micro-manage the building of commercial-use toilet stalls. You’ll also notice London has a different take on water pressure. To imagine a shower in London, wet a paper towel with cold water then hold it over your head and squeeze. Congratulations, you have just had your first London-style shower.
London’s several newspapers are similar to New York’s several newspapers. The left-wing, America-hating Guardian is very much like the left-wing, America-hating New York Times. The Sun, which is for dockworkers, is much like the New York Post, also for dockworkers. But the Sun has boobs on page three, making it a better paper for dockworkers.
Overall, London is a lovely place to visit – especially for the quarter-billion Americans who don’t speak anything other than English.