26.3.10 un día

I remember waking up this morning with the thought, why I did I set my phone alarm to 9am? Ahhhh yeah, breakfast closes down at 9:30am.  (And it does take you more or less twenty-five minutes to trek the fifty feet from your room to the kitchen, down the flight of stairs, the ugly colored carpet all the way, the flip flopping of blue bedroom slippers.)

The words of Che Guevara: “In nine months of a man’s life he can think a lot of things, from the loftiest meditations on philosophy to the most desperate longing for a bowl of soup–in total accord with the state of his stomach.”  Taken one way, it seems a rather romantic portrait of my half somnambulant stumble-step toward satisfying my gluttonous lust for muffins in the morning, which is how I conceive of it–cardinal sin versus cardinal sin, gluttony just narrowly edging out my otherwise impeccable morning sloth.

I am just starting The Motorcycle Diaries and already I’m prepared to praise it as fabulous.  You should read it yourself to see why.  I began my reading this afternoon in a café–but that was already after a day of roaming around like a true-to-earth resident of the city, the kind you become when your plant your roots in some place firmly enough such that you can stochastically swing this way and that, all with perfect confidence.  (God, enough of romanticizing, and long sentences, but that’s enthusiasm for you.)

In the morning I sat in my room and leaned against the mattress with my computer on my lap. The two mattresses, one on the other, are situated low, with only a finger’s width between the bottom of the bed frame and the ground, so as you can see, I was sitting on the floor.  (If you lose something under the bed, as I do from time to time, it’s a real struggle getting it out.)  I checked my e-mails and sent one to my academic adviser in the biochemistry department.  Perhaps that’s why I’m feeling so good, finally shedding this declaration to study the natural sciences, planting both feet on the same road for once, economics all the way.  I was also excited from an e-mail which told me that the senior center back home is going forward with an information session on legal issues for seniors on 20 April.  When I was in town in the fall I made contacts with law firms in the city and with the law school, and the responses I got back varied in their certainty.  So the sensation I have now is of one whose seeds have, after a long season, borne fruit–not the feeling a gardener feels, who plainly expects the result, but that of a child, who buries a seed and becomes emotionally attached to the little green shoot, and who can never be quite sure about the fruit until the dreamlike moment when everything is realized in full.  Naturally what I felt is not so strong as, say, when one studies Italian for years until he can finally read Dante in the original, or when a father sees his girl receiving her high school diploma, I am only saying that what I felt is an element of that general class of feelings.

This post is never going to end.  At 11.30 Dan and I headed out to the chocolate festival in the open at the Southbank Centre.  Vendors were set up in tents and people were walking about.  It was intermittently sunny and cloudy, and you were kind of screwed, because whenever it was sunny it was warm under your jacket, but during cloud cover the cool spring winds slipped through, reminding you it’s still early in the season.  After enjoying a Mayan (authenticity open to question) hot chocolate I found Dan and we parted ways.  I slipped into the adjacent Royal Festival Hall, where they were preparing for a children’s dance program which just did not pique my interest right there.  I asked the man by the stairs whether the Queen Elizabeth Hall had anything good going on, and he said no, not until 5.30, so I was out of luck.  But I remembered that St Martin-in-the-Fields church sometimes has concerts during the day.  I’ve been wanting to attend one there for a while now, so I hopped onto the tube for Trafalgar Square.  Here is what I found (well, not this guy):

The pianist was a delightful young Eastern European raised and educated in Israel.  During the program he gave incredible treatments of Schumann (shame Chopin is stealing all your thunder) and Scriabin which cut through the muddy acoustics of the sunlit space.  However, he played a shit encore of a Chopin Waltz.

I was very happy I had caught the concert at 1.00.  Leaving the church I saw across the street the National Portrait Gallery, which also I had not been to, nor known how to find.  This is what it’s like to live in London, I thought.  I decided to make a brief traipse through a gallery or two to make a break from sitting before setting out for a coffeehouse to read.  I’m afraid what was really on my mind the whole time was an itch to begin the Diaries so I did not give an exhibit on 17th century Indian portraiture the attention it deserved.

I did a fair amount of walking from Lamberth North station before finding Scooter Works Café. The small shop presents an unassuming facade which does not even have a sign bearing its name. About the third time I passed by its tinted windows I noticed the subtle scooter decals and caught on.  I should have know better, but before anything else could happen I was already saying to the barista, “Is this Scooter Works Café?” and by then it was much too late to play it cool.  While I waited for my cappuccino I pulled a book from the shelf.  Uncommon Grounds.  I made it through the introduction, and thought, it seems like a good read, and right then I knew I would never in my life finish the pages of that book.  The available selection was small but eclectic, but anyway, I was here to read the adventures of young Che Guevara.

Really though, this must be one of the coolest coffee shops in London.  You have to see the furniture and decor: so cool it would be shameful to be seen photographing them because it’s such an obvious thing to do.  And I have to go back just to ask about the music.

Ten thousand words and I have yet to pen one about Turkey.  It was a treat of a trip.  I have to say that the ideas it left me about the diversity of the world’s cultural, political and economic traditions led to the ultimate overthrow of the biochemistry declaration.  But then, Che was trained as a physician first.  So really, it’s all what you make of it.  And how can anyone be short of inspiration with Scriabin and Che at your backside, along with all the great men of history and the common men on the street, the vendors, the coffee harvesters, the jobless, the destitute, everyone casting themselves at you?  Throw up sails and catch the winds.


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