Wednesday, August 30, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #66] This is a small country

Living in the middle of a huge city on the edge of Europe, I sometimes lapse and forget that Britain is a small country.  To remember, all it can take is realizing you've gone from London to the other end of the country in three hours.  Or you can watch X Factor, née Pop Idol, antecedent to American Idol.

I'm watching it now and the talent level of the audition pool is leagues below American Idol.  Yes, there are great ones, and yes, America has just as many humorously bad ones, but I am talking about the average.  So many of the people who are going through to the next round wouldn't stand a chance in the States.  And hearing Simon say, to someone who'd surely be shown the door on American Idol, "you're fantastic" makes you feel a bit bad for him - it must be hard coming back to this after hosting the show over there.

I know the UK has hugely talented people - there just isn't nearly as big a pool to draw from.  To emphasize this they've even had to expand what they draw from.  There are three categories here now: 16-24s, 25 & overs, and groups.  In the end each judge coaches a category and they "compete" to have someone from their category win.

We could very well get another Will Young out of this season, but we're gonna have to wade through a lot more pain than my American friends will finding the next Kelly Clarkson.

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/shaunism
London, UK
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Saturday, August 26, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #65] Our cool flat, Definitely Nottingham and my bad chi

As you know, Natasha and I love our flat; it's a perfect fit for us, ideally located, and just a great place to live. Well, this past Thursday the management agency threw a BBQ for the residents (in the private garden, natch) - they had (veggie) burgers and dogs, salads and lots of wine and beer! Very cool. Seeing that it was a fight to get my last management agency in New York to change the bulb in the hallway, having this one do all this definitely took me aback. Oh, and we got to take three unopened bottles of wine with us as a parting gift at the end of the party. ;-)

Last weekend I took an overnight trip to Nottingham - just to see another city, check out some new bars and clubs. Well, I had a good time out, but I can definitely see why the town's not called Yessingham. Oi! Gertude Stein would've been at home - there is no there there.

Lastly, we tried to rearrange my room today to improve my feng shui; my bed's in the coffin position - very bad. But unfortunately the size and shape really won't allow any other set up, so it's as it was. But, I did notice that my door actually opens on an angle, so I think technically it's not the coffin position. However, anyone who knows any tricks for improved chi or energy flow, please let me know

That's about it at Rosebery Court this week - just wanted to give an update. Hope all's well where you are. It's a bank holiday weekend here - so long weekend here! Yahooey!

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/shaunism
London, UK
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Monday, August 14, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #64] 100 bottles of beer in my stomach, 100 bottels of beer...

My anniversary weekend has been really nice.  Todd being in town assured debauchery and drunkenness, and dinner was really nice.  And a bit of surprise.  I was sitting there at the table with five friends and realized, hey, I do have a group of friends here, I am building a social circle; it's kind of snuck up on me without me even noticing it.

Thank you to all of you who were with me over the weekend, and the rest of you I hope to see soon, either here, the West Coast in December/January or East Coast in April.

xo,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/shaunism
London, UK
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Friday, August 11, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #62] Lovely & Brilliant

Five-hundred-twenty-five-thousand six-hundred minutes, five-hundred-twenty-five-thousand pints of beer!  Oh, wait, that's not how it goes, is it?  This is how you can tell it's a show about life in New York and not in London.  You can't survive Manhattan without at least a pint of vodka flowing through your veins at all times.  In London, unless you fancy $18 cosmos as standard, you drink beer.  Lots and lots of beer.  Fortunately they embrace white beer here.  Try it immediately.
 
Here I sit, on the afternoon of the eve of my one-year anniversary in London; Todd from New York is in town, I've had two pints at lunch, carefully selected friends have been invited to Thai tomorrow, and an even more select few are coming; the weekend holds promise, and the searing heat has given over to grey, cool, sweater weather.
 
So what do I think of my circumstance?  Of London, the year that's past, Natasha, all those and what I've left behind?  Well, lately, quite a lot.  I suppose the coming of this anniversary has naturally bent me towards introspection, and I've come to decisively cloudy indecision.
 
Natasha has been amazing.  I expected a roommate, but I got a partner in the truest sense.  Not just the friend she's become, but the person who's lived this experience with me and understands.  I remember how hard it was moving to New York, not knowing anyone in the flesh, and what a different move this was.  London feels diminished when she's not here.
 
I miss my New York friends immensely.  I have friends here, some of whom I've grown closer to than I'd expected, others I've rarely, or never, seen.  But the depth within the breadth I'd grown to have in New York is lacking, and it can feel emotionally naked.  Of course I can't have the type of friends I built up over seven years in just one, but that doesn't make me miss them any less.
 
I love writing sterling cheques.  I love when the phone is engaged, looking right then left to cross a street, snogging & pulling, taking the rough with the smooth, taking the piss, putting asides in brackets and brilliant or lovely things.  I love living and working abroad, amongst people who've grown up in a different culture than I.  It's so much fun learning the little ways their lives are different from mine: the different perspectives, the different collective memories & experiences.  I love living "so close to" Europe. 
 
"London's prohibitively expensive" someone told me just before I moved here.  As a Manhattanite, I shrugged her words off and laughed inside.  Wow, a slap in the face can hurt sometimes.  I was out Wednesday not having drinks with someone, and he got a vanilla milk shake.  For $7.50.  On top of this I've had some lingering financial worries hanging over me from New York that've made most every week a nervous, wrenching uncertainty.  It's been hard.  But it's also given me the momentum to take the plunge into school full-time, move forward and get on top of this situation.
 
With enough planning I can get anywhere in Western Europe, and much of the East, for $100 or less.  But it's costing me $1,200 to see friends and family this December.
 
Every morning and evening when I walk over the Blackfriars Bridge and can look from the Houses of Parliament and London Eye on one side, to St. Paul's, the Gherkin, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf on the other, I often feel stunned, but always feel lucky.  This city is amazing; amazing in a way you can never grow tired of.  And I live here.
 
I find London's Los Angeles-like sprawl frustrating.  I know some of you made fun of me for it, but I loved living in my tiny bubble in New York.  Everything and most everyone I wanted was near - what's so bad about that?
 
I relish getting to be a kid in a candy store again.  London's still so new; there's still so much to see and find.  I have areas I love, but there are so many I haven't even seen yet, and ones I like but rarely get to.  This fades after enough time in any city, but London will allow this to go on much longer than most.  What's that saying about a man who grows tired of London...?
 
So what do I think?  Did I make the right choice?  Am I still glad to be here?  Absolutely.  Am I ready to leave?  Definitely not.  But in the same breath, I feel more like a New Yorker than ever.
 
I miss you all.  Come visit soon.
 
Cheers,
Shaun

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Friday, August 04, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #61] Saving Citibank, La Familia (less Pappi) and topping

As I am sure all you financially savvy people know, Citibank's assets haven't been growing as fast as its competitors and has been surpassed by HSBC as the world's largest bank and is nearly losings its market capitalization rank to (gag!) Bank of America.  Well, I'm stepping up to the plate and doing my part!  I've taken out a silly amount of fresh debt in student loans from Citibank so I can take a year off work and go to grad school for my MBA full time.  Citibank obviously needs the money more than I do, so I am doing what I can to help.
 
Now, in truth, I do have some secondary less altruistic motives behind my actions.  One, I've learned that the system works differently here than in America, and not having the right letters after your name can be a hindrance, so I want to get some more letters ASAP, PDQ; the potential jobs I've been coming up for just aren't what I want to do for two years while doing the program part time.  Another is the desire to, hopefully, move on to more interesting and rewarding work more quickly.  And yet another is the freedom I'll have from not being tied to the school for two years; as we all know, I have serious commitment issues with schools.
 
So very good about that.  It feels right and I am excited about both going back to school full time and seeing what it's like over here.  Wish me luck!  And wish the hand of Bush to be kind over the next 13 months; should he crash the economy I may be in a prickly situation.
 
Also, as such, my vacations will be curtailed; other than the ones I've already bought tickets for, the only new additions will be America; the West Coast in December/January, the East Coast in April.  Stay tuned for dates.
 
In other news...
 
My mom, sisters Lara & Lisa and Lara's kid Emilio came to London to visit me over this past weekend.  I haven't seen them since I went back to America in March, so it was really good to see them.  I played tour guide, as best as one can with a 23-month old child, and showed my city off well, I believe.  Mostly it was just good to show them my life, where I am, what I do.  My good friend Sean even joined us for dinner one night and survived to tell about it.  Bless.  Attached is a picture of Lisa (blonde), Lara (brunette) and Emilio (baby).
 
Last for this installment...
 
Does anyone else distinguish between 'top up' and 'top off' or is that my own applied nuance?  I think topping up just means increasing/adding, but topping off means increasing/adding to the maximum amount.  My English coworker disagrees*.  Is this another Americanism or simply a Shaunism?
 
Cheers,
Shaun
 
*She also doesn't accept gotten as the past participle of got, but that's one of my favorite idiosyncrasies of American English and I refuse to drop it.

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/profiles/shaunism
London, UK

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Words of Wisdom

An e-pal of mine has just moved to Manhattan (Chelsea, no less!) recently.  He's finding it a tough town.  So I gave him the following advice:
 
(A preamble to my lady friends in New York: no, you are NOT fag hags; you do not hold our hands every weekend at the gay bars and clubs.  You, and we, have evolved beyond that, so the words below do not apply to you.)

 
"New York is a tough town; not for pussies, as I said.  The lonely-guy-in-the-big-city feeling is normal for new arrivals.  New Yorkers definitely aren't flaky, not in the LA sense at least.  What I think you're coming up against right now is the fact no one is taking you seriously.  You can't imagine home many new arrivals I met over my years there, so fresh and excited to be in New York, all the things they were going to do.  Then they either can't find work; can't cope with what it takes to live day-to-day in New York; or get caught up in The City and The Scene, overspend, overparty, run out of credit; and are back home within months promising to "return soon!  SOON!" and, of course, they never do.  No one will take you seriously until you've been there a year.  You have to prove yourself.
 
In tandem to that, you will find once you've been there a year, you'd rather gouge your eyes out than move back to where you came from.  Trust me on this.  You have to get through it.  It's worth it.  But you can't be a pussy.
 
You will find, eventually, though, that no one is your friend like a New Yorker is.  When they're your friends, they are your friends.  Someone told me this when I lived in San Francisco and I never understood it until I lived there.
 
As for the hag - NO!  Bad Manhattan homosexual!  Hags are only for guys under 22 or who live West of the Hudson.  You shed your hag by then in New York.  You will find they are nothing but a cock block. 
 
(Similarly, you cannot wear A&F if you live in Manhattan.  If you do, everyone will assume you're either a) from New Jersey, or b) just moved to New York and are about to fall off the proverbial edge and move back to Nebraska.  I don't think I have to warn a man of your ilk & calibre away from A&F, but you're from Chicago, so it's better to be safe than sorry.)"
 
I miss my gritty, hard city right now!
 
Cheers,