Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

Blame it on a simple twist of fate (or a deal with Satan), but Umlaut has been able to visit London annually over the past decade or so thanks to Skychick.

Umlaut lives in a sometimes surreal world where he randomly recognizes random flight attendants and they randomly recognize him. Sometimes the feeling is like being in a kooky movie.

Umlaut's last visit to London earlier this year was VERY Lock 'N Loll. Unfortunately, a lot of heavy shit has been going down in Umlaut's world recently, so this trip was meant to be a respite from The Real World Shite at Casa de Umlaut rather than a Lock 'N Loll Adventure. In reality it really wasn't, but it was fun while it lasted... and oddly Bob Dylan was my shadow of sorts this week.

"In the jingle-jangle morning I'll go following you..."

On the flight outta SFO, a champion Somali kitty fresh from the S.F. Cat Show was stowed under my seat. I'd never heard a cat meowing on a plane before. It wasn't as annoying as a screaming kid and kitty calmed down pretty quickly. At 35K feet I listened to Link Wray (R.I.P.) and the Children Of Nuggets box set on the iPod. Fuzzy guitars sound like angels.. at least to my ears.

While waiting for the London flight outta Houston, Umlaut listened to the live version of American Idiot from the new Green Day live CD to drown out the loud t.v. monitors spewing the latest Bush Jr. and Rumsfeld propaganda. The George Bush International Airport in Houston has a bronze statue of Bush Sr. inside the terminal. Unfortunately, since it's indoors no pigeons can pay their respects on it. The new Green Day live album has the best crowd screaming since At Budokan.

Over the Atlantic, I watched the Bob Dylan No Direction Home DVD. Holy shit. Seventeen or so years ago, Umlaut was deep into his Dylan obsession / English Major phase. The DVD made me a Dylan fan all over again, for the first time. The archival video and interviews are hypnotizing. The 1966 live footage when he said "Fuck You" to the Folk fans and went electric is Punk. YES it is...

Back on the ground, I watched a bit of the Champions League match between Manchester United and Villarreal (Spanish League). It was Man U.'s first game without Roy Keane (for those who care). England was consumed with the George Best death watch and the papers were running elaborate tributes eventhough he hadn't died yet. Umlaut had NO IDEA that Best played for the original San Jose Earthquakes in the early-80's (before Umlaut appreciated soccer)... 1980-81.. 56 games.. 21 goals.

Geek Secret: Ever since 2003, Umlaut has listened to Permission To Land by The Darkness on the train ride from Gatwick Airport to Victoria Station because the timing of both is almost the same. The cool thing about taking the train from Gatwick to Victoria is that you pass the building that's on the cover of Pink Floyd's Animals album (the old Battersea Power Station) just before you cross the Thames.

I love being in London because eventhough I'm over 5,000 miles from Casa de Umlaut, I still feel at home in many ways. Using The Tube, dealing with the traffic coming from a different direction, using Pounds, etc. is almost second nature. Also, I LOVE record shopping in England. One reason is because even the major chains (HMV, Virgin) still carry vinyl (7" and 12"). So, I had no trouble finding the new Ltd. Ed. Darkness clear vinyl 7" picture disc. Exciting.

Oh, and if you're a Zeppelin fanatic like Umlaut, you MUST hunt down a copy of the latest Mojo / Q Special Edition on Zeppelin! Amazing.

Also, Umlaut thinks it's hilarious that HMV stocks Green Day in the "Kerrang! Metal Section".. They're right between Graveworm and Grimfist. In the regular Rock Section it says "For Green Day go to the Kerrang! Metal Section". Funny.

Umlaut spent the day tripping around by himself with plans to meet Skychick and a couple of old friends for dinner that evening. The Imperial War Museum was having a Lawrence Of Arabia exhibition (Lawrence of Arabia: The Life, The Legend) so I checked it out.

Besides being a Music Geek, Umlaut is also a History Geek. The Imperial War Museum was one of those iconic places I'd heard about as a kid because so many war photos in history books are credited to the museum's collection. The foyer as you enter is stunning, with several World War I and II aircraft suspended from the ceiling.

"Achtung! Spitfire!"

Besides being a Music Geek and a History Geek, Umlaut has also been a huge Vintage Airplane Geek since he was a kid.

Also in the foyer are dozens of vintage tanks, heavy weapons, and other historic vehicles from man's illustrious history of killing each other.

A World War 1 tank nicknamed "Devil"

Best Quote: Museum Security Guard 1 to Museum Security Guard 2 - "This time of day you don't get the awful school kids.."

One of Lawrence of Arabia's motorcycles (He was killed in a 1935 accident)

When in London, Umlaut MUST have Indian food. His favorite place is Durbar in Notting Hill. Durbar is around 3 or 4 blocks from the nearest Tube station and Umlaut noticed a decent looking pub along the way. Since I was early for the dinner date, I popped in for a pint and sat by a window as Bring It On Down by Oasis played on the pub's stereo.

I had the idea that I'd sit there until someone from the dinner party walked past the window... and after several minutes Skychick walked past and I tapped on the window to get her attention.

It was a lovely dinner spent with good friends. The Vegetable Korma and King Prawn Vindaloo were superb.

We spent Thanksgiving Day (which is NOT celebrated in England.. you stoopid Americaine!) shopping in Brixton. I'd never been to Brixton during the day (only at night once for a concert at Brixton Academy). As fate would have it, Bob Dylan was ending a 5 night run in Brixton on Thanksgiving Day.. but we already had plans for the evening and the show was sold out anyway... and Umlaut has vowed never to see Dylan live again (although he'll listen to his music forever).

Dylan @ Brixton Academy - Thanksgiving Day 2005

Note: Electric Avenue, immortilized in that 80's Eddy Grant song, is the street to go in Brixton if you wanna score drugs.

The 7" Single Door of an abandoned record shop in Brixton

After soaking up Brixton, we headed to the South London home of some other friends for Thanksgiving dinner. No, Thanksgiving is NOT celebrated in England (you stoopid Americaine!) but since 1/2 of this household is American it was allowed. It was a lovely dinner spent with good friends who are soon to make like the Pilgrims and are not long for Albion.

During the journey to and from Albion, Umlaut watched several in-flight movies:
  • The Bad News Bears (2005 version) - Non-alcoholic beer? Lame.
  • Fantastic 4 - Quite possibly the worst comic book super hero movie ever? Lame.
  • The Island - Michael Bay channels Logan's Run. Lame.
After trying to watch the crap movies, the iPod on shuffle at 35K feet became a somewhat sublime experience.. Yes, for awhile Umlaut noted the iPod's shuffle playlist (The Geeks shall inherit the Earth):

Just Like Honey (Jesus & Mary Chain) > Killer Queen (Queen) > Steamrock Fever (Scorpions - Tokyo Tapes live version) > I Can't Explain (The Who - Live @ Leeds version) > Iron Tusk (Mastodon) > I Feel So Good (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds) > Velvet Snow (Kings Of Leon) > Mr. Tambourine Man (Bob Dylan - 1966 live version) > Jesus Saves (Slayer)

I almost did a spit take at 35K feet when Slayer shuffled on.. The Jesus & Mary Chain to "Jesus Saves". Sometimes I think that the iPod is a sentient thing.

Blame it on a simple twist of fate (or a deal with Satan), but Umlaut has been visiting London annually for more than a decade. However, on this particular trip, as Skychick and I made our way around the city (and odd things happened and were seen) I had an epiphany that although there is much about London that I love, I couldn't live there.

On the final night in London I had a bizarre series of dreams featuring former supervisors and employers lecturing me about how good life is... It's all related to the storm that's a-raging at Casa de Umlaut. Life can throw you curveballs when you least expect it. Dyaknowwhatimean?

It was odd how Bob Dylan was sort of a thread for Umlaut this week.. From watching the DVD on the flight, to Bob being in London, to Mr. Tambourine Man playing randomly on the iPod. Of course, I'm listening to Dylan even as I type this.

Anyway, I'm now back in The Real World and nothing's changed at Casa de Umlaut (unfortunately). The shit is still hitting the proverbial fan. We will see what 2006 brings.

"I've been to London and I've been to gay Paree.. I've followed the river and I got to the sea.. I've been down on the bottom of a world full of lies.. Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear, It's not dark yet, but it's getting there.." - Bob Dylan

P.S. Hmmm.. I just read this and it sure is bleak... but it feels good to vent. Speaking of bleak, Gillian Anderson is in the new BBC adaptation of Bleak House. Trust no one.


Umlaut wanted to THANK all of the friends who sent e-mails or called to make sure all was O.K. at Casa de Umlaut after this post. I REALLY appreciated the Old School concern and was actually quite touched by it (awww).

Long story short, other people are fucking with Skychick and I, but we'll get through it. Unfortunately, the people causing us bullshit are clueless fucks whose brains can't comprehend compassion or the lyrics of Bob Dylan. If that were true I would blast Positively 4th St. at their fucking faces while kneeing them in the groin:

"I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes... Then you'd know what a drag it is to see you..."