Magic 105.4 plays You Can’t Hurry Love and Fix You back to back on a mid-Friday afternoon in September. I know this because this is the radio station the folks at Phoenix Cafe on Bell Lane decide to accompany your coffee with, giving the vibe a very conflicted feeling about how it feels about you sitting there sipping your half-priced Americano and stealing their wifi.
“Love, love, it doesn’t come easy.”
No, it certainly doesn’t. But we try, right? For instance, Open City by Teju Cole is my favorite novel because it’s relatable, among other things. To wit, Cole writes of Julius’ thoughts:
“It was surreal, as surreal, in my memory of it now, as anything I had ever seen. This vision of needless suffering colored what else I saw of the sunrise, the river, and the quiet morning roads in the hour that followed, when, coming down from the bridge, I walked down Fort Washington until it met 168th Street, at the medical campus, and from there walked on Broadway, through the littered, sleeping barrio, all the way down, through Harlem, then on to Amsterdam and Columbia University’s quiet campus.”
This graf is so nakedly intimate to me because it just so happens to be my running route. I’d cross the GWB, head down Haven Ave until it connected with Fort Washington and then run, run, run and turn around once I hit Broadway again. This love, for New York City, comes incredibly easy because it’s more or less, undoubtedly, home.
Sorry, I meant “used” to be my running route. “Used” to be home.
On Wednesday I moved to London.
Look, I said to myself mid-flight somewhere over the Atlantic, nerves on a knife edge, stomach churning unbearably in seat 26C, a delightful Wes Anderson flick on the monitor, moving to London will be a fucking breeze compared to Arusha. If you were able to handle that shit, halfway around the world in East Africa with a bunch of lovable Aussies (I miss every one of you, FYI), London is like waking up the next morning and ordering waffles at the diner. It’s simple, reliable, easy and convenient, the way waffles are meant to be.
But what happens when they don’t eat goddamn waffles in London?
When you’re supposed to look left and not right before crossing the street? When they have coins for every single value – honestly, what the fuck is the purpose of a 2p coin, is it just to fuck with my head? When you ask for a “coffee, black” and they don’t know what you’re saying – can I make the order any simpler for you?
When you walk into an Argos for the first time…that’s all I’ll say about that. We don’t have an Argos-type store in the States and I don’t online shop because I like to check out my product before purchasing. Trying to order a “duvet set” and realizing it doesn’t come with a pillow so you’re stuck sleeping on your sweatshirt the first night is just charming. IT IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE A BLANKET.
“Lights will guide you home, and ignite your bones, and I will try to fix you.”
I hear this song, these lyrics, and I think of the scene in Gavin and Stacey where Pete is passing off these lyrics to Gwen as his wedding vows. It’s fucking hilarious, and it makes me think how wonderful London is. Like, how nearly every aspect of their way of life is marginally better than the States. Phones, transport, lifestyle (except for the smoking, everybody seems to walk around with a ciggy here), clothes, attitude…and the best thing is you can drink outside. It’s glorious. Fuck waffles. Give me that warm ale.
I’m one to be hyperbolic, melodramatic – at least my writing – but I’ve come this far, no turning back now. No turning back on London, on the goal, on doing the job. Right? If Arusha taught me anything, and boy did it teach me a lot about myself and my views on life, is that there is always something to appreciate, to give you reason to pause, reflect and move on.
There’s a giant crest of England right outside my flat, white shield and a red cross, it’s what I wake up to in the morning. It’s comforting in this oddly, Benedict Arnold kind of way. Something I’ve grown to love, just like running through Washington Heights.
Damn, I haven’t written in a long time.
Cheers to London, yo.