Category Archives: Uncategorized

1000 paintings 10,000 Foxes

dsc_2036l

On Friday street artist Adam Neate placed 1000 works around, turning the entire city of london into his gallery. The team was to begin placing the works at dusk on Friday on the outskirts of the city and finish at dawn in the center of the city. (http://www.elmslesters.co.uk/index.php?pid=5&subid=28)

Also, there are 10,000 urban foxes prowling london. (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/05/foxes-london.html)

This is my story of trying to find an Adam Neate painting in the small hours (as they say here) of friday night/saturday morning.

Verena and I head out at about 2:30 on Saturday morning – with the idea being if they stared in the outskirts and were planning on finishing in the city at dawn, this would be a good time to start the hunt. We leave the flat and walk towards Sheperd’s Bush thinking to check there, then grab a bus to Camden and then walk down to the city. This plan holds the added bonus of the chance to see a coked up Amy Winehouse stumbling around the streets of Camden.

We see nothing on the way to Sheperd’s bush until we are cutting across a park and … hey, what is that? Holy shit! It’s a fox just ambling through the park. Ironically there is a sign on the fence on the fence as we are leaving the park that says “No Dogs” Good for you Mr. Fox, good for you. Stick it to the man. Also in Sheperd’s Bush we see a bunch of people smoking outside the entrance for Ginglik. Why do I mention this here? Mostly because Ginglik is a members only bar that is inside an old public toilet under Shepherd’s Bush Green (http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/clubs/ginglik-review-9832.html) Brits are weird.

We decide to walk from Shepherd’s Bush to Notting Hill to catch a bus, we found nothing along the way and get on the bus, getting off to change at Notting Hill station only to find that the Notting Hill station bus stop is closed due to road work. SO we wander around thinking we would come across another bus to take us to Camden, but that doesn’ pan out so we head back towards Notting Hill and wait at a bus stop – which I will add had an arrival board announcing the times of approaching busses – only to find out from some locals who may or may not have been homeless that this particular stop is not in operation due to the roadwork. Then why the hell does the announcement board not say “This stop is Closed”!?!?!

So we backtrack to a functioning bus stop and hey, guess what? We get on the same bus that we were on before – like an hour previously. Well, not the the *same* bus, but the same bus number/line … you know what I mean. We decide that now it is too late to go to Camden and decide to go to Oxford Circus and head down to Trafalgar square.

We got to Oxford Circus and wandered down through Carnaby street to Soho and then to Piccadilly circus and then over to the square and we were 100% unsuccessful in finding any paintings. Then from Trafalgar Sq. to Embankment and got on a train home. We found no paintings, but we did see 3 foxes and some interesting things that unless you are willing to wandering around the city at 4 in the morning you will never see.

Things like Piccadilly Circus with 12 yes 12! people in it, a completely empty Carnaby Street, bands of drunken revelers still wandering home from a club, the way that the back alleys of Soho are filled with beer and liquor bottles waiting to be recycled. The astounding number of people that are still out… I mean yes, streets that are teeming with people during the day were empty, but everywhere we went, there were people… not many mind you, but still enough to let you know you were in a city.

Anyway, even though we did not find any paintings, I considered the night a smashing success.

A quick check of eBay Saturday afternoon reveals that indeed people found them and many – at least many of the eBay ones – were way out in the suburbs like Croydon. Really Croydon? I mean really? Oh and on a side note, shame on the people who found one and are putting it up on eBay. But since part of this exercise was to explore the line between art as an aesthetic and art as product, I guess you are all just part of the plan.

Advertisements

The Joys of Trying to Open a UK Bank Account

b_bank_wideweb__470x2580

On Tuesday I set out to perform what I considered a fairly simple task – opening a UK checking account. Well, as I continue to learn, nothing in this country is ever really simple.

At Verena’s suggestion I try to open an account online with the Cooperative Bank. Because they are ethical and have good rates. I fill out the form and it wants my previous address, since I have been at my current address less than 3 months. Problem is, I can’t enter a US address. So I call and talk to one of their representatives, here’s what happens:

Them: Hello, this is [name] at the Cooperative Bank, how can I help?

Me: Hi, My name is [name] and I’m trying to open an account online. I just moved here from america and your online form doesn’t seem to want to accept an american address.

Them: Oh, let me look into that, please hold for a bit

Me: fine

Them: Ok, I just checked with somone here, and you have to be a UK resident for 3 months before we can open an account for you. You’ll have to try again around Christmas.

Me: Right, I’ll put that in my calendar.

OK, so that didn’t work, on to plan B. I head to the high street thinking that Ill just pop into a bank and talk to someone about my options. I choose Abbey because in my mind pretty much all banks are the same and Abbey Bank/Santander is a title sponsor of the McLaren F1 team. I go in and stand in the que for like 10 minutes and get to the lady behind the glass and ask who I need to talk to to open an account – she says everyone is busy and that she can make an appointment for me on Friday. Good enough for me.

Friday comes around and I get up early (9:00) and head over to the bank. I go in and talk to the bank lady and after half an hour of putting things into the computer (during which time I learn that she has a cousin who moved from atlanta to minneapolis) she informs me that because I have not lived here for 3 months, the best they can offer me is a cash machine card.

me: what is that?

her: it is a card that lets you take money out of a cash machine (with a look that says “are you retarded?”

me: so I can’t use it at a restaurant or anything like her?

her: no, only at a cash machine.

me: what about to buy things off the internet?

her: no, only at a cash machine.

me: why would anyone want that?

her: I’m sirry, but based on your residency, that is the best I can offer.

me: Ummm, yeah, that;s not really a great solution for me. I’m going to try somewhere else.

her: Ok, good luck.

So… I head further down the high street – and I gotta say, this is the nice thing about the high street, everything is there, in one place. Every major bank has branch there, ever coffee chain has a store there… which is both good and bad. Good because everything is more or less centrally located, bad because every high street looks more or less the same. Anyway, I head to the next bank and talk to a nice guy and tell him the situation I’m in and explain that I have a bunch of american money and I’ve been here couple weeks and I want a regular checking account. He says that should not be a problem and so an appointmnet is made for next week.

At the appointed time I head back to the bank, provide my information and chat about things… I learn that he went to a “charming sports bar” in Beloit, WI while in america on business. I’m guessing it was a Champps. After all the information inputting I am finally approved for a checking account that not only works at any cashpoint and on the internet and all that, but it pays interest as well. Success!

A Night Out at Fabric

388476291_8bb7f8fc72

For Verena’s birthday she put a crew together to go out to Fabric – the “Best ever club in the world” according to DJmag.com. So here’s how the night went.

First we travel on the tube for a while (pretty much any story about London begins there) and we had to a pub a few blocks from Fabric. I use the word “blocks” very loosely here since the concept of the block does not really exist in london since none of the streets are straight or evenly spaced.

At the pub we are all sitting around the table and this woman comes up and the following ensues:

Them: Where are you lot off to tonight?
Us: Fabric
Them: Oh, right, you need anything? Pills, smoke?
Us: No, we’re good
Them: You’re sorted then? Right, have a good time.

The same things takes place pretty much every time I stepped out for a smoke becasue you know, if you are smoking then clearly you love drugs.

So after a bit we walk over to Fabric and there is this massive queue – I mean like more than 100 people standing in a line that spans more than 4 blocks (see note about blocks above) but Verena’s friend Jamie had the foresight to purchase tickets that allows us to “jump the queue” as the saying goes over here.

Fabric itself was a pretty typical club – 3 rooms, different types of music in each room with the young and hip filling its space. Really, not that different from, say, the Lounge in Minneapolis with the main difference being that there are a bunch of different nationalities at Fabric, instead of like… 3 in Minneapolis.

We stay there until 3 or 3:30 or something like that and then call a cab and head out. On the way out you have to climb some stairs and the stairs are filled with people who are either tired and trying to sleep until the tube starts running again or they simply had too much alcohol/drugs in their system. Either way, it looks like a scene out of a B rate movie where a virus comes and makes everyone catatonic. When we finally get outside we see that there is still a massive queue to gt in – and it 3:30 in the morning. Crazy.

The aborted first attempt (3 – 14 october 2008)

So I get to the flat on Friday the third of october, after almost missing the plane and being chastised by the gate agent for not being at the gate 30 minutes before scheduled takeoff. Oops. So the gate agent tells me that my luggage “may or may not” be on the plane and there is no way to check so I’ll just have to wait and see if my luggage actually shows up at Heathrow. What a fantastic start.

When I get on the plane, I ask the stewardess cabin attendant if she can tell me if my dog is on the plane.  She comes back a bit later and says that the documents are in the cabin and the pilot is busy so she’ll get back to me once the plane is in the air.  Fair enough.  So she comes back and tells me that yes, indeed, my pup is on board. Hooray!  After hearing my story – that I am moving to London – presents me with a congratulatory bottle of champagne.

The plane lands, I get off and miracle of miracles, my bags come down the carousel.  I exit and joyfully meet up with Verena and we get on the train to head to the flat.  Cae the dog will take 5 hours to clear customs, so the plan was to go to the flat, have some food and then head to the Animal Reception Center to collect her.

At the flat I get a call from the people at DEFRA (the UK equivalent of the USDA) who tell me there is a problem with Cae’s paperwork and she either has to go into quarantine for 6 months or go back to America.

“What?”

“Well, yes, you see in 2007 her rabies vaccination was given on January 4th and in 2008 it was given on January 8th. So unless the rabies vaccination was a two year vaccination, she is not eligible for the PETS program and she will either have to return to America or go in to quarantine for 6 months.”

“What?”

“Yes, well, terribly sorry, but those are the rules.  We are an island nation and rabies does not exist here and we can’t be too careful”

“So, there’s nothing I can do?”

“No, not unless you can prove she was protected from rabies for those 4 days”

“Right, well, I will see what I can do”

To make a horribly boring long story short – I head to the internet cafe (the internet at the flat was not turned on yet) do a bunch of research, call a bunch of people in the US and generally fail miserably in my attempt to find some way of keeping my dog with me.

The best idea I had was to suggest that we re-test her here and if she has the acceptable number of rabies anti-bodies, wouldn’t that prove that she was inoculated and rabies free? I call a DEFRA vet and they say well,  there is no way to tell if the anti-bodies are from an infection or from the vaccine.  Furthermore, the “no vaccination gap” rule is under consideration for change, but as it stands today that is indeed the rule and  so I’ll have to either return my dog to America or put her in quarantine for 6 months.

Since it was about $500 cheaper to book a round trip flight instead of a one-way I oh-so-thoughtfully booked my return to be Tuesday the 7th of October.  So I spend an enormous amount of money to have Cae transported back to America on the same flight as me and we arrive in Minneapolis St. Paul International later that day.

And… more drama at the airport.  Going through customs I hand my passport to the annoyed looking border patrol agent and the following exchange ensues:

“Do you have any checked luggage”

“Yes, one bag, and I am bringing a dog, but I was told I need to collect her at the cargo receiving center.”

“A dog?  No, you’ll pick her up here”

“Are you sure?  My cargo agent said I will need to pick her up at the cargo receiving center.  She was loaded as freight cargo, not as checked bagge”

“Look, I’m here all day, all dogs come up here, talk to someone in baggage claim”

“Ok”

So I go into baggage claim and talk to another pair of border patrol people and basically reiterate that I was told that I need to get my dog at the cargo receiving center, that my dog was booked as freight cargo, not as luggage and they tell me, that she’ll be here in the airport.

I ask a baggage handler if they know what the deal with my dog is –

“Dog? Big dog? Yes, big dog on the plane.” says the guy.

“When can I get her?”

“I’ll go look”

10 minutes go by, the guy comes back and says “Wait 10 minutes.” So I wait 15 minutes, find the guy again and he disappears for another 10 minutes and comes back empty handed.  He points at a red jacketed northwest helper person and says “Talk to her”.

Oh, hey, guess what, yeah, I need to pick her up at the cargo receiving center.   So I get my rental car, go the the cargo place and I have to wait until wednesday morning to pick her up because the customs office in MSP closes at 5:00 (how does that make any sense at all?

Wednesday morning I get Cae, she looks a little worse for wear but overall pretty good. We go back to my friend’s house in St. Paul and have a bit of a nap and then head out to my friend Matt’s place in Madison, well, really Stoughton, Wisconsin.  And that’s where she is now and she seemed happy to have people and cats around her. Matt is awesome for watching her.

I left her on tuesday the 14th and returned to London.